Just Lucky

November 26, 2009

It is Thanksgiving. I know you knew that, but I had to start somewhere.

Visions of turkeys at my grandmother’s house get stronger as the smells from the kitchen grow stronger.

We sometimes had Thanksgiving at the homes of other relatives, but I only remember the ones at Nana’s. Heaping bowls of buttery mashed potatoes, tureens of gravy, piles of fresh rolls, casseroles of one kind or another involving green vegetables and thus suitable to be ignored by boys of a certain age.

In the center, of course, would loom the turkeys.

To a kid my age, they were always enormous, a wall of poultry, steaming, savory, the epitome of temptation.

OK, this was before puberty, and my range of temptations was still fairly narrow. But still. Oh. My. God.

I am feel more fondly now of toward some of the people at that table, looking back, than I did then. For one thing, most of them are dead, and it seems unkind to feel otherwise.

It was the usual mix: Mom and Dad, my brother, my grandmother, resigned and unhappy, her own mother, sour, mean of eye and the reason for the dispirited expression in Nana’s face. Assorted other relatives filled the chairs. The older I get, the less distinct their faces become.

They were possessed of the usual hodge-podge of human frailties and strengths, drawn by accidents of birth and a circled date on the calendar to sit down at a feast of gratitude.

Thanksgiving is an ancient word, and an older concept, giving praise to whatever deity you worship for what you have been given. Not that we are required to worship a deity to be grateful. This has long troubled me as a practical atheist. I finally decided it was perfectly logical to feel gratitude for simply being lucky as hell, or at least luckier than you likely deserve.

In a little while I will close this laptop and join a dozen other people at a table groaning with two turkeys and all the accompanying glories of excess, as three dogs roam around the table like religious pilgrims, seeking epiphanies.

It does not take a flash of comprehension for me to know how very lucky I am. I have people who, mysteriously, both know and like me, despite my obvious failings. I have never known serious hunger, been homeless, or suffered many of the insults to self-respect that human culture can pile on. I am in frequent contact with truly amazing people.

Yes, I could win a big lottery. Against all common sense and my own advice, I sometimes buy a ticket, because, well, you never know. But I’m really fine without it. I’m lucky, and I know it, through no effort or grace of my own. How did it happen?

Beats the hell out of me.

Happy Thanksgiving.


© 2009 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.

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