Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving from the Gratitude Nazi

My children call me the “gratitude Nazi” because each Thanksgiving, I insist we take some time–before tucking into the turkey–to consider how fortunate we are.

In this blog, I tend to focus on things that distress me, or make me angry (or–increasingly–despondent). On Thanksgiving, however, it’s appropriate to reflect on how much I have to be grateful for.

I’m an incredibly lucky person. I have an intellectually-stimulating job I thoroughly enjoy, a loving and supportive (okay, forbearing!) husband, wonderful children (both biological and acquired), perfect grandchildren and longtime good friends. I’m also not ALICE, for which I am deeply grateful.

I’m privileged, and I know it.

I’m conscious of all my good fortune, but today, I especially want to acknowledge the gratitude I feel for the little community that has developed in the comments section of this blog. It has been a totally unexpected benefit of my foray into cyber “venting,” and one that I have come to value very highly.

I know only two or three of you from the “real world.” The rest of you I know only from our interactions here. I have learned so much from your thoughtful comments, suggestions and reactions, from the sharing of different perspectives, and most of all from the evidence your presence has provided that civil, constructive discussion of even very difficult and sensitive issues is both possible and enlightening.

I am very grateful for all of you who visit and help me make sense of the tumultuous world within which we must all make our ways.

Happy Turkey Day!



For the past couple of years, our family has gathered for our Thanksgiving meal on the Saturday following the “proper” Thursday; it allows those coming in from the coasts to get better airfares, and those with “other” families to split their time equitably among relatives. So–although there seems to be some sentiment for a return to the traditional day of celebration–yesterday was our big meal.

And big it was! 22 people around three tables. Two turkeys, and multiple dishes, many assigned to children and siblings in advance. (My sister always brings the sweet potatoes–our daughter brings veggies, my daughter-in-law’s usually stuck with appetizers.)

I know that Thanksgiving is an ordeal for many people, a time of enforced conviviality with seldom-seen relatives who pry or judge, disagree politically, are more or less religious or are otherwise less than pleasant. But the thing I’m most grateful for is a family that isn’t at all like that. Our family includes not just blood relatives, but long-time friends, and relatives of relatives. This year, we welcomed the parents of my nephew’s partner. (My sister and brother-in-law have decided that even if it doesn’t work out between Josh and Michael, they’re keeping Michael’s parents!) We had nephews from both coasts, cousins from Florida, a son from New York, all our children and all but one of our grandchildren (our oldest granddaughter lives in England–she was missed!)

I’m probably biased, but I think our Thanksgiving table(s) are a perfect reflection of America.

We have Jews, Protestants, Catholics,Buddhists and atheists. We have gays and straights. We have native-born Americans and immigrants.

What we don’t have any more, I realized yesterday, are Republicans. And that’s interesting, because fifteen years ago, most of the people at my Thanksgiving tables were Republican. My sister used to poll her neighborhood for her precinct committee person. My brother-in-law was showing some disquieting signs of imminent “Fox-afication.” My husband and I were still hanging in, believing–hoping–that the sharp-right tilt of the party we’d worked for so long was a temporary aberration. A couple of the kids had already deserted, and several of us were getting uneasy, but like so many others, we had deep, longstanding ties to the GOP. We were loyal.

On the other hand….

We would all describe ourselves as socially liberal and fiscally conservative. We are all–every single one of us, whatever our religious beliefs, national origins or sexual orientations–pro-science. Pro-empirical evidence. Pro-diversity. Pro-reality.

And so here we were, this year, a now group composed entirely of Democrats and Independents. A group of people who favor reproductive choice and same-sex marriage, and worry about global climate change.

There’s a lesson for the GOP here, and I hope the party learns it. The country needs two credible political parties, and if our family is typical (and I think it is), we’ve pretty much lost one.


Thanksgiving Week

Light blogging this week….My middle son is home from Manhattan for the week, cousins are coming in from Florida. We’ll have a full house.

I love Thanksgiving. When we sit down to our meal, all the children and grandchildren (save, this year, our oldest granddaughter, who lives in England) will gather around the table. My sister and her husband, their two sons and their partners (and this year, one of their partner’s parents!) will all make a big, noisy crowd. They’ll be joined by a couple of friends, the aforementioned cousins….There’ll be lots of people, lots of food, lots of laughs, and lots of hugs.

We have our traditions: after we finish eating, I turn into what my children call “the gratitude Nazi.” We go around the table, and I make everyone share what he or she is most grateful for. Only then can the guys split for the big screen TV and whatever football game is being played.

A more recent tradition: we have our Thanksgiving celebration on Saturday rather than Thursday. That makes it easier for family members coming from the coasts and for those with competing family obligations. It’s more fattening, but it works pretty well.

I hope those of you reading this have a wonderful holiday. Count your blessings, kiss your kids, relax a bit. Draw a sigh of relief that the election is over, and try not to think about the odds that the most recent blow-up in the Middle East will start World War III.

See you after the break.




For so many of us who are fortunate, Thanksgiving highlights a persistent irony of our lives: while there is injustice and suffering around us, our own lives are full and rewarding.

I’m Jewish, so this creates a considerable measure of guilt. I’m well aware that I’m no more deserving of my good fortune than my friend who lost a job or a husband or a child deserves that fate. So much of life is simply luck of the draw.

The least I can do–the least any of us can do–is cultivate humility and gratitude in the face of our blessings.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, because it gives us an opportunity to step outside our daily routines and appreciate what we have. In my case, that includes a wonderful spouse who has put up with me for many years, children and stepchildren who are loving and interesting and accomplished people who give back to their communities, and (of course!) perfect, beautiful, wonderful grandchildren. Add good health and a job that’s rewarding, and I count myself among the luckiest women around.

A friend I admire greatly is fond of saying “From those to whom much has been given, much is expected.” I think about that, and about the Talmudic injunction to the effect that, while God doesn’t expect us to perfect the world in one generation, we aren’t free not to try.

In a moral universe, those of us who have so much to be thankful for have an obligation to those less fortunate. We may disagree about the shape/nature of that obligation, but when we ignore it, we end up with shriveled souls.

Happy Thanksgiving!

My Traditional Family

Like so many Americans, my family has developed a number of holiday traditions. We always have Thanksgiving at my house, with children, grandchildren, step-children and “adoptees”—friends without their own families nearby. The day after, we put up the Kennedy Christmas Tree, ornamenting it with a few dreidles, a small replica of the Bill of Rights, and the usual assortment of baubles. We top our tree with a fancy yarmulke from one of the boys’ bar mitzvahs.

This Thanksgiving, as I looked around our steadily-lengthening table, I saw what I believe will increasingly be the truly “traditional” American family.

My sister and brother-in-law are Jewish, as are their two sons, both gay. My older nephew’s partner of eleven years is Philippine, although this year we celebrated his new status as an American citizen. My husband of thirty years is a non-practicing Christian (unless you count buying Christmas presents as religious). I’m a non-practicing Jew (at least, until I encounter an anti-Semite). We’re a blended family, and each of us brought a disabled child (now a disabled adult) into our marriage. Of our other three children, our daughter married an immigrant who has never applied for citizenship, although—being English—he’s almost never confronted anti-immigrant bias. They are Episcopalian. Our oldest granddaughter is gay, in college in Wales and in what appears to be a good relationship. Her brother, our oldest grandson, is twenty; he has been seriously involved with his African-American girlfriend since they were sophomores in high school.

Our middle son was home this Thanksgiving from New York, where he currently lives. (He thinks it’s really funny that when he goes to one of our local gay bars, so many people he meets know his mother). His younger brother was absent for the first time in memory—he and his wife and two small children were with my daughter-in-law’s family this year. My daughter-in-law was raised as a nondenominational Christian, but she and my non-practicing, non-religious son are raising the children Jewish. All the women at our Thanksgiving table have careers; the older among us, careers of long duration.

In addition to the family, we included once again this year an informally “adopted” family member (white, gay) whose mother is in a nursing home in southern Indiana. It occurs to me as I type this that—despite a friendship of nearly two decades—I have no idea what his religion is or was. (I do know his politics!)

So there we all were—gay, straight, black, white, Asian, Episcopalian, Jewish, agnostic. But we were—we are—a family, in every way that counts. We share political attitudes (no Bush defenders in this bunch, I’m happy to report). We laugh—a lot. We love each other, and I think I can honestly say that affection has never been based upon bloodlines or genetic relationships. (My youngest son knows perfectly well that if he ever split from his wife, I’d go with her.)

When I hear the folks on the Christian Right pontificating about the importance of the “traditional” family, I know they aren’t talking about my family. They are talking about the white, Anglo-Saxon (preferably blond), heterosexual, middle-class and middle-brow people pictured by Norman Rockwell on old Saturday Evening Post covers. That family was “normal” and predictable: One dad, who works. One mom, who stays home and bakes apple pies and takes care of the two tousled, freckled children (one male, one female) and the obligatory dog.

I may finally have found something that the Christian Right and I agree upon: the Norman Rockwell family is on its way out. The difference is, while they bemoan its demise, I look around my Thanksgiving table, and give thanks for the vibrant, interesting, self-aware, self-accepting and all-around wonderful human beings who’ve replaced those cardboard cut-outs.

Happy holidays!