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With Great Thanks

Thanksgiving was a foreign, rather exotic concept to me when I first arrived in the United States—the glistening turkeys served on enormous platters, the sheer amount of food, the frantic rush of getting everything on the table followed by the tryptophan-induced lull, football games and the Macy Parade a murmur in the background.

It’s now been over thirty years since I’ve experienced my first Thanksgiving, and I’ve grown into the beauty and coziness of the holiday.  It’s a time of year that’s tinged with nostalgia, as I revisit old family recipes and spend hours in the kitchen, the aroma of my life in Italy stirring around me, the sun sinking behind the redwoods before I know it.  And with that nostalgia—which evokes ghosts and regrets, and a hum of grief—comes a renewed sense of gratitude for what I have right here, right now, and for what lies ahead.

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the fervor of the holidays and forget our reasons for celebrating.  From family drama to the high expectations we create that are rarely met, holidays are rife with anxiety.  Throw in the extra expenses, the uncle who has a habit of arriving at family functions completely inebriated, and traveling in winter weather, and it’s no wonder that many forgo the holidays altogether.  But we must return to the kitchen, find that gratitude, and express it to everyone around us.

Thank your partner for his unwavering kindness.  Thank your child for her unique way of perceiving the world.  Thank your brother for his steadfastness, your sister for her equanimity, your aunt for the nuggets of wisdom she’s shared with you over the years.  Thank that uncle for serving in the war, or fixing the tire on your bike when you were eight. Thank your mailman, your gardener, your neighbor, the teenager who bags your groceries.  Thank the soldiers who fight for us, and those who pray for us, and those who sacrifice for us.  Thank your past for the lessons it has taught you, your present for all it offers, your future for its promise.  Most of all, thank the world for its existence, and for granting you a part in it all.

And now, with that appreciation in your heart, enjoy the glistening turkey and keep in mind what my dear friend Viola Buitoni suggests: “si dovrebbe rimanere piu a lungo a tavola con I propri cari e guardere meno television.”  Spend more time with your dear ones at the table, and watch less TV.  Grazie.

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