This blog series, #30DaysofGratitude, hopes to share bits of gratitude and create an awareness of how gratitude can change our mindset.
Every day this month, I, along with other writers, teachers and friends, will post about all things gratitude. Come along for the ride and let me know what you are most grateful for every day - I know we can inspire one another.
On New Year’s Eve, we ring out the old and bring in the new. On Christmas and throughout Hanukkah, we give and receive. On Thanksgiving, we reflect and offer thanks.
In this life, where we tend to move all too fast; in our cars, in our communication and in our minds, Thanksgiving ensures a hard stop. There are no fancy outfits to assemble, no gifts to wrap. The day lingers on: sporadic cooking and sampling, football on tv, football in the yard (repeat), and family and friends casually gather for a not-so-light meal.
My dad ALWAYS gave the Thanksgiving toast (there were even a few occasions where we weren’t hosting, but, in his own charming manner, unapologetically invited himself to speak). Year in and year out he repeated the same monologue. He would open with “My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving…” It always began that way, as if we didn’t already know. While the rest of his words are fuzzy at best, I distinctly remember how happy he was, and, therefore, so was I.
In the days and weeks following my father’s passing, I found myself poring over piles of pictures in the basement of my parent's house. I have come to realize that this is a common practice during the grieving process. With the finality that death brings, we cling to the remnants that depict life. Something. Anything.
My sister on vacation with my parents (Jamaica, maybe The Bahamas?).
Me swinging (maybe for the first time?)
My brother disguised as Spider Man (clearly NOT taken on Halloween).
A large group of men (a few may have shared familial characteristics) dressed in tuxedos, smoking cigars.
There were SO MANY photos and photo albums, but I couldn’t find anything from Thanksgiving Day. I was surprised and, frankly, disappointed. Where was my nugget, my keepsake? I continued to search. As I sifted through the years and decades, I began to notice more and more images were missing.
Where was the one of the family car, my dad’s arm extended out the window, swaying left and right, in beat with the radio?
Or the one of my mom, laughing into the phone that sat on the back corner of her bedroom nightstand?
The one of an outdoor party on the fourth of July, when a VERY cute, not-so-shy-anymore boy had returned home from college for the summer…a classroom full of wide-eyed sixth graders…afternoon walks pushing those red, plastic cars…a neighborhood Wiffle ball game…a serious conversation at the dining room table on a rainy day…(finally!) dropping a ski halfway around the lake…our family of 6 (dog included), racing to claim our usual spots in the family room before the show begins…my childhood bedroom with 9 college-bound girlfriends in a huddle, refusing to let go…a group of die hard mom-fans, blanketed on a cold, metal bench, rooting on the sweetest group of ballplayers you have ever seen…
And then it occurred to me. Most of the moments that leave an indelible mark on our minds and in our hearts are simply not captured on film.
The images described above, I have no proof of. There were no photographers there, the lighting was not ideal, and there was no filter.
While they remain unframed, neither glossy nor matte, they can never be discarded.
This kaleidoscope of stills (frankly, mine appear to me more as a deck of cards, shuffled all too quickly by one of those dealers who waits on high rollers in Vegas) has no chronological order, no beginning and no end. No technology needed to access.
Is my recollection of these moments, so very vivid, even accurate? How will we know, for certain, if what we think we experienced and remember is real, perceived, or somewhere in the middle? The truth is, we won’t.
This surprisingly brings me much comfort. These memories, undocumented and unconfirmed, are mine and yours and can forever remain as real and idyllic as we want, and often times, need them to be. They are safe, protected, and not subject to dissection, interpretation, or speculation.
I am grateful for much: a loving family, devoted friends, good health, a warm house, inspiring work. This November though, and especially on Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the undocumented moment, the moment we can retrieve on a whim, unchanged, whenever we want it, or need it most.
Lesley currently works for Eklund Consulting. She feels fortunate to work with a variety of educators who are committed to making their shools great places to work. She REALLY enjoys spending time with her family, and with friends who are like family. She volunteers in her community and tries really hard to do something (semi) active everyday!
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