Once again, another year is almost past, and I haven’t gotten what I deserved. That alone is cause for thanksgiving. I’ve driven over the speed limit 50 times and gotten no tickets. Failed to call friends back and still gotten birthday cards from them. Ducked my insurance agent and still been treated with courtesy and tact — and gotten a better policy. Gotten cross and spoken thoughtlessly to our children, and they will still, all four, be around the family table on Thursday to rejoice together with their mother and me. Rumor has it that a niece, sister, and boyfriend will join us too.
Thanksgiving is a great compressor of memories. Touch a single feature of it, and a thousand thoughts unfurl of people and places gone but never forgotten. Maybe it will be a single gesture — my wife lifting something from the stove — and the scene will be one and the same with the reverie of an aunt in a Kentucky Victorian half a century ago, or my mother almost two decades back, the last time we shared this holiday with her on this earth. In the spark of that moment, her voice will ring softly in my ears and I will hear a phrase of hers, momentarily as real as the present patter of the loved ones gathered now.
The layering blankets each recurrence and brings with it only a deeper sense of the unearned grace and love of another year. Meg will make sure an array of food that would have dazzled the court of Nebuchadnezzar II is spread across our table. We will offer thanks for people, likely worldwide in the great concourse of comestibles, whose foresight and labor made this, and all our meals, possible. With that in mind we can make a start of what Thanksgiving really is, not freedom from want but from self, and genuflection to the God who has authored every atom of our happiness.
— Charles A. Donovan is president of the Susan B. Anthony List Education Fund.