Throughout America, families large and small, young and old, gather together this week for a day of Thanksgiving, a day of gratitude: a day to share stories about what we love, who is important to us, and what we remember most fondly from Thanksgivings past. As these stories from APH members illustrate, sometimes stories are sweet and sometimes funny, but they are always worth saving.
Circle of Gratitude, by Sam Uhl
We have a tradition in our family. Just before Thanksgiving dinner is served, we turn off the video games, the music, the football, and the cell phones. While dinner warms in the kitchen, we gather together in a circle of gratitude.
We hand out a candle to each person present. Some candles are old nubs, some new tapers—we share whatever we have hanging around—though each one is ready to be lit with the flame of love. Mike or I will begin the tradition by striking a match to the candle of someone with whom we are not close or who has a “tarnished” family reputation. I may light the candle of our nephew and share that I am grateful for his spunk and that he’s important to me because he reminds me to maintain a childlike heart.
The nephew then takes his lit candle, and with it, lights the candle of another family member, expressing how he is grateful for her. We go randomly around the circle until everyone has felt love and encouragement.
The years we have employed these circles of gratitude have gifted us each happy memories and a light of love to both hold dear and to share.
I’ll Bring the Capon, by Susan T. Hessel
Years ago, I was a young reporter at the LaCrosse Tribune dating the only other young reporter at the paper, Dick Mial. Neither of us were going home for Thanksgiving, so we decided to have our own dinner. I purchased a capon, a family preference growing up.
On Tuesday that week, the city editor came by our desks, “Hey kids, what are you doing for Thanksgiving?” he asked.
We thought he was inviting us over for dinner and said that we had no plans. He said, “Great!” and gave us an assignment to go to Viola, Wisconsin, about an hour from La Crosse, to have dinner with a woman who had placed an ad inviting anyone who did not have plans for the holiday to come to her house.
I called the woman and mentioned that I had a capon ready to cook. She told me to bring it. So I made plans to roast it—after calling my mom for advice, including information on which end of the bird to stuff, which she found highly amusing.
As it turned out, Dick and I were the only people who arrived because of the ad in the newspaper. Everyone else was asked personally to come to dinner by the woman who posted the ad. My capon, which looked like it had seen far better days after roasting all night long, was the center of the meal. And—much to my surprise—it was edible, even though I didn’t know I was supposed to remove the bag of giblets before roasting and I cooked the stuffing inside the bird. I am quite proud that none of the guests at the dinner showed up in obituaries within the food-poisoning range of time.
Many Thanksgivings have come and gone since then. Dick and I married and raised a family. Capons are long gone from our table. This year, I’ve got a lot to be thankful for—to be with family, to be healthy, and to know which end of the turkey to stuff.
The Ride, by Eddie Adelman
About 30 years ago I was living in Portland, Maine. My girlfriend and I were preparing a quiet Thanksgiving dinner just for us. While the turkey was in the oven we went to the store to pick up cranberry sauce.
On our way to the store, we saw a young man with a duffle bag. Oddly enough, he was hitchhiking right in the middle of town. I had no idea where he was coming from or where he was going to, but instinctively, I picked him up.
He said he was headed home to Lewiston, about 35 miles north of Portland. He’d hitchhiked the last few days from Alabama, where he was just kicking around, doing odd jobs. He’d had a falling out with his father, he told us, and they had been estranged for a number of years. Recently, his sister had called to tell him that their father had taken ill. It was serious. That was the reason he was going home. To mend fences.
We could have dropped him off anywhere closer to his destination and he would have been thankful. But instead, we drove him all the way to his front door. He invited us in, but we declined. After all, we had our own bird in the oven.
We tarried for a moment to watch his mother greet him at the door. It was a Hallmark moment, in real life. And that was all the thanks we needed. The ride home was quiet. The silence said it all.
So what favorite Thanksgiving story will you be sharing stories around your Thanksgiving table this year?