So, with Thanksgiving behind us (at least, in Canada) and myself being someone who never gets there until everyone else has already been there a while – I thought I’d write about gratitude. Every Thanksgiving, Ryan and I, together with his family, rent a chalet in Collingwood for the long weekend. We bring homemade soups and desserts. We decorate the chalet with an art collection the kids have been making since they were toddlers, as well as gourds and ears of corn that we buy at a farm on our way there.
This tradition goes back so far that we all call it “Collingwood”, not “Thanksgiving”. Once we’ve arrived at the chalet, we do …. whatever. We play poker, and whatever other games someone might be inspired to suggest. We do crafts. Ryan and his brother, Derek, play a deadly serious tennis match. They bring their guitars, and we all sing along – and cheer enthusiastically. The guys watch hockey and football, the ladies have cocktails and talk about the guys. There’s usually a hot tub, and sometimes a foosball, ping pong or pool table. This year, we added a soccer ball (one of my powerful-but-aimless kicks nearly took out the next-door neighbour as he was watering his tomatoes), Jenga and the dispicable “Cards Against Humanity” to the list, as well as a spa experience.
Because the chalet belonged to everyone, so nobody was playing host, everyone pitched in with everything. So there was time. Time to sit down and sing a favourite song with the guitar players. Time to take anyone up on any game. Time to lie around with cucumbers on my eyes and some mysterious goop on my face and feel the presence of others in the same situation. Time to chat whenever anyone felt like chatting. Time to cuddle. Time to close my eyes and breathe in the smell of the delicious whatever-happened-to-be-simmering in the kitchen. Time to just be. I took some of this copious time to teach Fiona and Bridget to sew. Nothing fancy, just how to close a rip and how to apply a button. They loved it! And now they have another life skill that will save them money and grief down the line …. Years from now, when they are in therapy over all my glaring inadequacies, at least they won’t be able to say that their mother never taught them to repair clothing. Also, the loved-hard-but-still-smiling Sleep Sheep has a new blanket.
And, of course, there was time to consider what we have received. On the funny side ….
– Ryan and I packed the car to maximum capacity, and duked it out over what’s essential and what’s not. But we didn’t fight.
– Fiona carried a phalanx of live ladybug larvae on her lap all the way to Collingwood and back (about fourteen hours, round-trip) – and none of them escaped or even, as far as I can tell, shuffled off their mortal coil.
– Nine grown-ass, full-blown human beings stayed in a chalet together from Thursday to Monday, and nobody lost their shiz.
– No dinner was eaten before seven on any given night, and – still – zero shiz was misplaced.
– We ate the Perogie Palace out of perogies. No, really, there were no perogies left by the time we were finished ordering. But it was fine – we shared, and there was more than enough. (As an aside, if you like perogies and schnitzel and a few cool twists on traditional Polish food, go to the Perogie Palace in Meaford!)
– Two kids were learning to sew, so several people were treated to a needle in the foot. But, again, everybody’s shiz stayed right where it was – and nobody died of sepsis.
– These same children were subsisting on a diet of sugar layered between sugar, rolled in sugar, drizzled with sugar and dusted with sugar, served in a sugar cone – and staying up about three hours past their bedtime every night – but they didn’t kill each other, and no one killed them.
– People over thirty played soccer, but nobody had a heart attack or broke their self-bone.
– I acquired a three-blister-shrivelled-skin burn from a sloppy gravy boat and yelled at everyone to “do something” while doing nothing myself because the pain lit my brain up like Canada Day fireworks, and nobody hates me, and I still have a right hand.
– After several straight two-a.m.-or-later bedtimes, we made that long drive home – and unloaded the car, which looked like our whole life vomited in it – and we didn’t fight.
Then, there are the not-so-funny things.On our way to the chalet, we passed two terrible accidents. Broad daylight, dry roads, and crumpled cars. But not for us …. Did we miss it by seconds? We were able to afford to come together, and in style. How many people are separated from their loved ones because of distance and money? While we were together, we could say whatever we wanted, whenever the thought occurred to us. Not everyone can say that. Any given person in the chalet (aside, of course, from Fiona and Bridget) could walk into the grocery store for extra supplies, not even consider the cost, and cart it home. Once it arrived at the house, any of us could lift it up the stairs and into the kitchen, because we are blessed with health and strength. We can prepare the food, wash ourselves and even our clothes and surroundings with perfectly clean water. None of us are sick. And, if we were, a few hours in a waiting room is the only price we’d pay to get back on track. Any time we wanted, we could plant a sloppy kiss and a tight hug on some of the people we love best in all the world. Our girls, when they are in Collingwood, are surrounded by love – and they know it. Oh, the beauty of that!
I write about all these factors in the context of Thanksgiving, and this one lovely weekend we spent together, but really what I’d like to see is this level of gratitude expressed every day. God knows we have received alot. We don’t live in Iraq or Syria or North Korea. Nobody we know has Ebola, or has even come in contact with it (yet). The hospitals, care facilities, schools, libraries, churches and roads we use are free to any Canadian citizen. If we fall on hard times, there are people and institutions waiting to help us. We can look however we like, be any colour or creed or non-creed. Our race is not a source of shame. Who we love is our business, not society’s nor even the state’s, and most people are happy to celebrate our love with us. How high we rise does not depend on the achievement of our forbears. And, if we reach out, we can find people with whom we can share ourselves because so many people are just waiting to be tamed.
For what we have received, let us be truly thankful. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! (There. I’ve published this just in time for our neighbours to the South to enjoy and reflect. Not bad, Beth, not bad.)