It's a struggle saying thanks this year. The editorialist across the way tootles the annual Thanksgiving tune, but how does the music play? To me, it's a little tinny.
Is it enough this time to say that our Island home is beautiful? That we are fiercely protective of it. That our community is neighborly. And generous. That we are granted do-overs. That no decisions are final. I don't think so.
We have learned, no question, that some things are final.
How can one say thanks when we've lost so many friends and neighbors? Somehow, thanks is not the right word, is it?
Thanksgiving began in the fall of 1621, as a celebration of survival. There was a harvest, and there had been blessings. The newcomers to the New World had clung to their dearly bought foothold.
Plymouth governor William Bradford invited neighboring Indians to join the Pilgrims for a three-day festival. Warily, they played and feasted, delighted and grateful for the bounty their small community enjoyed, perched at the edge of a vast, unknown continent, an insular outpost thousands of ocean miles from home. Neither Indian nor Englishman could imagine what trials lay ahead.
In England, the Puritans were not the big deal they are to us. Associated with Cromwell, they had a moment, but that was all.
"In England," Jacques Barzun explains, "[the Puritan] wore pointed hats, spoke through his nose, sported names like Praisegod Barebones, and after killing the king ruled a country deprived of gaiety ... [in the United States] the Puritan settlers, condemned for their ethos, are nevertheless admired as the Pilgrim Fathers - and credited with much that they did not do."
By the end of the 19th century, Thanksgiving Day had become an institution throughout New England. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it a national holiday in 1863.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, writing after Lincoln established the holiday, called it "our honest Puritan festival." How can he have missed the way those last two words clashed. He said Thanksgiving was "spreading, not as formerly, as a kind of opposition Christmas, but as a welcome prelude and adjunct, a brief interval of good cheer and social rejoicing, heralding the longer season of feasting and rest from labor in the month that follows." I suppose he means it's like the pre-Christmas sale days that are part of modern mall life.
But on that autumn day in 1621, the Pilgrims and their guests found their pewter tankards and hollowed gourds half full of blessings from the settlers' dangerous but promising first year in the new place. They hoped there was good news in the wind.
But, what about us? Like those early celebrants, our small band has been diminished. We have counted untimely losses, damaged lives, and gravely wounded families. The news has not been so good.
If thanks is difficult, what might one say at dinner tomorrow? How about this:
Life is a crapshoot.
Or, into every day a little rain must fall.
You have to live every day as if it were your last.
Because you never know.
Their time had come.
Their memories live on.
At least we had a few good years together.
The best of friends must part.
Every cloud has a silver lining.
Nothing is certain but death and taxes.
It never rains but it pours.
Time heals all wounds.
What will be will be.
It was God's will.
There's no use crying over spilt milk.
Everything happens for a reason.
Perhaps. But all the turkey in the world won't tell us what the reason is, will it?