A small, boxy turkey roosts on my kitchen table. It’s a long-ago homemade item (that alone makes it priceless since I rarely hand make anything) and is, therefore, minimally adequate. It’s definitely not Pinterest-quality level, but then, that never was my goal. (The turkey is, in fact, older than Pinterest).
My goal was to wrap brown paper around a small box and separately around its lid, cut a slot in the back, and somehow affix a rudimentary hand-drawn turkey head on one end, and some multi-colored construction paper tail feathers on the other. This is exactly what I did. Think basic shoebox turkey and you get the idea.
Shortcomings aside, it has, in fact, served the purpose for which it was created: to hold the things we’re thankful for, annually written on small slips of paper we push through the slot on the turkey’s back, to be read during Thanksgiving meal.
Each year, as I stow the Turkey Box after the holiday, I pull out that year’s slips and bundle them together with the year written somewhere on them. As you might guess, entries have evolved over the years as kids grew up, married and left, then eventually brought their children back to our Thanksgiving table to add their own paper slips to the turkey.
When I set the turkey on the table this year, I pulled out all the bundles of past years’ paper slips — evidence of reflective pauses when family members took a moment to assess their lives and pinpoint the thing they’re most thankful for. Childish scrawls of single word answers like “food” and “stars” evolved into things like “my skateboard” and “friends,” then morphed into more mature themes like “My job” and “The semester is almost over,” to be eventually replaced by entries like a boyfriends’ name, then “our house,” then “I’m pregnant,” as the years went by.
The most oft listed item was no surprise — family. That choice surfaced in various forms more and more as the years passed, especially as the kids established families of their own. Nothing makes us appreciate our family more than moving away from it to start one of our own. The second most often listed item on the paper slips was gratitude for family members’ faith.
I’m curious what this year’s slips will say. Living in these angsty, post-election days overshadowed by the ominous threat of a global pandemic whose victims nearly exceed hospital capacity certainly helps us focus on what we’re thankful for. We’re thankful the elections are over. We’re thankful we don’t have the virus. Thankful our families are surviving. Thankful a vaccine seems imminent. Thankful to every person wearing a mask. Thankful for emergency responders and care workers.
Who would have ever thought our Thanksgiving gratitude list would include things like face masks, sanitizer and curbside pickup? We’ve been changed. Our perspectives are broadened. Many entries from former years seem frivolous in comparison to what we now face.
Imagine next year’s slips. They’ll include things we’ve previously never thought to list, things we’d be grateful to have again: hugs, gatherings, meeting up with friends, watching kids play soccer, going to church, attending a concert or sports event, going to school, working full-time in the office again, gym time, lipstick, playing in the park and smiling at each other.
It’s a sobering summary of things we took for granted — until we no longer had them. Strange how a microscopic virus reset our thoughts, adjusted our attitudes and realigned our gratitude. It also gives us one united commonality: We will all be thankful when it’s over.
So, what goes into your turkey box this year? The process of expressing gratitude is said to be a remedy for many ills. This year’s Thanksgiving comes at just the right time.
Let’s be thankful for that.