It tends to be children who so often get the bad rap of being spoiled brats.
And as the sole child of my parents, I will gladly admit to being spoiled, but people never characterized me as a brat. My parents always held me to high standards and demanded respect. I was taught to appreciate not only the material possessions that they provided me with, but also the quality time that they were able to provide me with. And while I was an only child during the week, I was blessed to have a large extended family who we visited most every weekend while I was growing up. I had 11 cousins all of whom were close in age to me.
We had countless adventures at my grandparent’s farm. Not to say that we didn’t ever argue or fight…there was plenty of that, too. But my cousins were the closest thing I had to a sibling. Besides being my playmates, they were also my most trusted allies.
But as we got older, I spent fewer weekends at my grandparent’s house. Sports and other activities made it more of a challenge to make the weekly hour-long trek to visit our family.
And even though we didn’t spend as much time together, our bonds remained strong. The relationships always picked up right where we left off when we were reunited.
Fast forward to adulthood. Inevitably, life has taken us in different directions and to different locations. I have cousins in different states and even one who lives in a different country.
But several years ago, we developed a Thanksgiving tradition, one that many of us have taken quite seriously. Because my grandma spends the winter in Florida, we all make an effort to spend Thanksgiving at her house and celebrate Christmas with her. We have even nicknamed our tradition “Thanksmas.” And it hasn’t taken long for my children and me to adopt this as our favorite holiday. It is the one day of the year when my extended family is together under one roof.
But 2020 has proven to be a year to undermine even our favorite traditions. My grandma is 91 and it was decided that as opposed to putting her health at risk, we would forgo our Thanksmas gathering. To say that this was a disappointment is an understatement. I mean, no annual cookie frosting the night before? No cousin gift-exchange? No fifty or more people crammed into my grandma’s farmhouse?
For me, this felt like a breaking point. We have all given up so much this year. We’ve worn masks, our jobs have been affected, our recreational activities have been restricted and cancelled. And now, the traditions that hold our family together can’t even occur. I can tell you that I experienced several emotions as a result of this cancellation.
Initially I was mad. Then my anger turned to sadness. What if, God forbid, my grandma doesn’t make it to next year? Who’s to say that this pandemic won’t continue until next year? And if we skip this year, will some people give up on this yearly tradition altogether? The possibilities are countless.
Yet, as devastating as it seems, I’ve had to change my perspective. Thanksgiving in its essence is a time for giving thanks. And while times are tough for all of us, we all have things to be thankful for. You see, the pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving were experiencing their own hardships. Life here in America wasn’t perfect. Many people had suffered loss. They had made sacrifices. But they chose to celebrate what they did have.
So as selfish as only children can be, and I’ll be the first to admit that I like for things to go my way, I am choosing to be grateful for the many blessings that have been awarded to me. Thus far, my family has remained healthy. My ninety-one-year-old grandma who I adore, has not been sick. And the rest of my family has avoided being sick as well.
And while school looks vastly different right now, I am still working and the kids are continuing to be educated. This fall my son was able to play soccer and my daughter ran cross country.
Financially we are stable, and we live in a place where we are able to spend time outside, even if we can’t go to other places.
As I write this, there is a part of me that is mourning the loss of celebration that I have come to look forward to. So I have to remind myself of all of the blessings entrusted to me. It’s fortunate that we have technology that allows us to communicate even if we can’t physically be together.
I’m going to facetime my grandma, and cross my fingers she can figure out how to use it. If not, I’ll call her. And I’ll be in contact with my cousins as well. And one advantage of facetime is that no one has to wear a mask. I’ll take advantage of the time to spend with my family. And once we are all able to get together again, it will make it that much better.
Being thankful is an attitude… a choice really. So while my disappointment is obvious, I also realize that I am blessed beyond measure and I’m so thankful for family and friends. Almost all of us are making sacrifices right now and suffering some type of loss. So don’t be afraid to let out your feelings of frustration, but also reflect on the many things you have to be thankful for.
This article was originally published here on the Astonishing Tales digital magazine on December 5th 2020.