Thanksgiving 2020

Of all the things that have provoked my anxiety in 2020, gravy-making holds an embarrassingly prominent spot on the list. Familiar readers will attest to my solid level of skill in the kitchen.  But the daunting task of creating this undeniably critical turkey-topping has negated any confidence gained from 25 years of culinary domestication.

For years I have left this intimidating aspect of Thanksgiving meal prep to the family matriarch.  But thanks to the pandemic, my pinch-hitter will be absent – safely ensconced in isolation where she will await a socially-distanced delivery of food made by yours truly.

If I’ve learned anything from the relentless ‘growth opportunities’ served up by 2020, it’s that I can do hard things, like surrendering my previously under-appreciated life to a virus, and separating pan drippings from fat to make gravy.

The invitation to rise above something as monumental as a pandemic (or a gravy recipe), has its appeal. A historical glance is enough to remind us that challenge and effort have a merit of their own, irrespective of outcome. If the figurative gravy over our lives doesn’t pan out this year, can we still enjoy the meal?

On one particularly memorable Thanksgiving, I thought I’d be fancy and cook a duck. One duck for twelve guests. Each ended up with a meager morsel of meat. By all accounts, it was the most delectable bite ever taken. Scarcity compelled us to savor.

Being thankful this holiday season may require more creativity than in previous years if viewed by its tremendous loss and hardship. Or it may be the most authentic expression of gratitude ever offered as a result of our whittled-down existence. Perspective will decide.

My offering this Thanksgiving Day is gratitude for all that has been given and taken, from every friend and foe. May our collective sentiments raise us up and remind us that Life, with or without gravy, holds something for us to savor.


ThankYouNoteThere is a house.  In the house lives an elderly man.  He is all alone with no one to care for.  So he cares for his house.

This is how our story goes.  The one my children and I have concocted from our observations.  Every day for years we’ve taken notice of this particular plot which sits on the corner near my children’s school.  It’s a simple house, probably as old as the man himself when he bought it to raise a family in.

The elderly man is, by all appearances, fastidious.  Mr. “F” we’ll call him.  His lawn is manicured, his wood pile impeccably stacked, even his  trash cans are arranged with great care.  I can’t explain why, but we adore this man we’ve never met.  Secretly, we offer blessings as we drive by.  ‘Have a peaceful day, friend.  Keep up the good work!’

Sometimes, the man’s comings and goings prompt us to add snippets to our story about him.  Like the day we saw a middle-aged man on the stoop accompanied by a police officer.  We allowed our imaginations to run wild with horror.  Surely, Mr. F had died and this was his son who discovered the body!  A moment of silence passed before we shared our mutual feelings on the matter – he never knew how we appreciated him!  Regret and sadness filled the car as we offered prayers for our secret friend and his family.

Exactly one month later, fully expecting a ‘For Sale’ sign to pop up on the man’s lawn, we saw him.  Yes, him!  Mr. F was alive and well and tending to his garden.  A shout of joy went up, followed by a bit of shame for our mistaken assumptions.  Our relief at Mr. F’s reappearance prompted my teen daughter’s suggestion, “We should thank him.  You know, for making us happy.  We could give him a compliment card.”

She is recalling a family practice that began when she was seven years old and was inspired by her own enthusiasm for the  holiday season.  So enamored was she of lights adorning homes at Christmas time, she would beg every night to drive around after dark to take in the glamour that is unique to the season.  Witnessing the joy it brought her, we felt compelled to thank the people who decorated their homes.

We decided to write anonymous thank you notes.  Armed with a simple notepad and pen, we’d drive around rating our favorite displays.  Then we’d scribble a note of appreciation, pull over, turn off the headlights, and sneak up to the mailbox to deposit our compliment card.  We’d giggle at our sneakiness, satisfied that we had made someone’s day.   Who doesn’t love a secret admirer?

In an attempt to resurrect the joy of spreading good will, we pulled over to Mr. F’s house and wrote this note:

“We love how you care for your yard.

 It makes us happy to see you.  Thank you! 

Love, A Neighboring Family”

We imagine that maybe Mr. F walks a little taller, bolstered by pride in his work.  And we, too, walk taller.  Not from pride, but from the natural boost that heartful giving generates.

I love spreading love.  It’s free.  It’s easy.  Everyone can do it.  Which has me thinking….wouldn’t it be something if this little blog, inspired by one little girl’s joy, inspired lots of other people to adopt the covert compliment card practice?  What if it created a….love-olution?!  What do you say?  Are you in?

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