Constance Alexander: Celebrating many happy Thanksgiving memories, past, present and future

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I remember the year my sister dropped the turkey on the kitchen floor, as she was transferring it from roasting pan to platter. We invoked the 3-second rule and swore each other to secrecy, so my mother never found out. Whew!

Making the gravy was always my least favorite part of the traditional meal preparation. No matter how careful you were to stir properly, lumps of flour lurked at the bottom of the pot. In the gravy boat, they floated to the surface, bobbing and winking cheerfully, marking still another gravy failure.

When my nieces were little, all they wanted on their Thanksgiving plates was a pound of butter and a nest of crescent rolls, still warm from the oven.

Who could forget the shame of being relegated to the kids’ table, a rickety arrangement of cast-off cutlery, chipped china, and wobbly chairs that tipped the instant you leaned back and tried to balance on two legs? No matter how many warnings were given, at least one kid ended up up-ending everything. Spilled milk splattered all over, transforming the dining room into a crime scene.

Thanksgiving was the date reserved for the annual football rivalry between my hometown and Highland Park. The game was played at a stadium in New Brunswick, much bigger than either of the fields we played on at home. The only year the game was switched to the Saturday after Thanksgiving was 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Everything was subdued, but the usual game rituals went on because it seemed like the right thing to do.

This year, I am thankful that someone else is cooking, and all I have to contribute to the Thanksgiving meal is Cranberry Cake that is 3000 calories per slice. I am also glad that the turkey day table will not feature an old family favorite — white onions languishing in a cream sauce thick enough to repair loose bricks in the chimney.

Every year I am grateful for family and friends, good health, meaningful work, a happy marriage, and a roof over our heads that is guaranteed for at least another 20 years. Ever-hopeful for the future, I pray for peace, harmony, understanding, and compassion for those less fortunate. For those more fortunate, I hope that when they look down on us, they are able to muster a modicum of empathy that inspires them to keep their word about providing affordable health care, creating jobs that pay a living wage, and keeping their own hands clean while draining the swamp.

If I run out of ways to give thanks on Thanksgiving, I can thank God for the poets who help us say the right words when we cannot find our own.

Ending with excerpts from a poem by Albertos Rios, “When Giving is All We Have”

One river gives
Its journey to the next
We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.
We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamonds in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine…

Gather your own stories through The Great Thanksgiving Listen using the StoryCorps app during the holiday weekend. For more information log on to storycorps.org.

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray, Ky. She can be reached at Calexander9@murraystate.edu. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.

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