Weddings – wonderful. Divorce – sometimes a reality. My family has enough divorces to make many of the young people in our family have four sides, rather than the traditional two. I don’t defend it in any way, but we are a heady and passionate bunch, and our good things don’t always work out. The weekend before Thanksgiving, we have a family reunion and we include in-laws, outlaws, exes from Texas, and anyone who loves anyone we love. It’s main merit lies in the fact that it has made generations of kids in our family perfectly comfortable with every configuration of family that there is. We share sweet potato pie with the new wives, with the old wives, with the boyfriends who may not be there next year, with the new grandbabies, and so it goes.
The older folks make it possible with this spirit of cooperation, and the young folks get to take for granted something pretty special. They come up with the new traditions, and this year they came up with Sumo Wrestling and The Thankful Tree. While we were busy setting up the tents and placing the china, they were busy laying out the mat, and dipping leaves in beeswax. Before dinner began, they handed out the dipped leaves with tags and explained that we would be writing what we were thankful for on the tags and then hanging them on The Thankful Tree, made of simple branches in a container. Most of us wrote things relating to the gathering; thanks for the food, thanks for family. Others were more specific, such as the thanks given for a kidney donation from a sister to a brother.
At any rate, it gave us a moment of reflection, a moment to pause. For the most part, the older generation in my family is a non-questioning group of Christians, but we have our share of renegades, mixed lineages and higher power believers. The Thankful Tree took the place of grace at this gathering, and it gave us the opportunity to express the simple thanks that we all have, if given the moment to think it over and have a handy tag to write it on. ‘I’ll Fly Away’ broke out in gospel tune among the musically gifted in our crowd as we filled out our tags. Though Thanksgiving is past, I think the tradition is adaptable to any faith, to any occasion, and to any age. The things we take for granted are the most precious, after all.
This winter holiday, why not have a Thankful Tree, custom made by the young people in whatever you call family? It can only remind us that we are all in this together and the only things in life REALLY worth anything are the people we love and have a history with.