Thursday, November 23, 2017

Musings on Gratitude

It's become something of a family tradition, a five mile trek through our town Thanksgiving morning, the annual Columbus Turkey Trot race.

We don't race.

We walk at a leisurely pace, admiring the more serious runners, the couples pushing strollers, the people dressed in turkey costumes or wearing drumstick hats. If you complete the race, you win a pumpkin pie. Every year we get in line to collect our pies and then we get into the line to donate our pies to a food bank.

We walk home and make our feast.

The first Thanksgiving in this town, we'd only been living here for three weeks. I still needed a map to find my way to the grocery store. It was a lonely day. Most years I cooked the big feast and we'd have 15 or 20 people around the table. An assortment of family members, friends and neighbors. But this particular year it was just the four of us. I made the full blown meal, anyway, out of habit, the giant turkey and all of the casseroles and fixings.

The four of us ate the meal in fifteen minutes.

I was looking out the front window at the gray sky, the unfamiliar lawn. The huge oak tree was dropping leaves and it was cold outside and I knew we were going to have to rake later. The kids were bored and homesick for our old town. We thought about seeing a movie but we weren't sure where the nearest movie theater was.

And then we heard the sound of a lawn mower. A stranger chugged by on his riding mower and we watched in amazement and gratitude as he scooped up all of our leaves. I almost started crying.

Turns out he was our next door neighbor. The next year we invited him and his family for dinner. They've come every year now for the past ten years.

Over seven thousand people run or walk in the Turkey Trot race. This morning we walked at our usual leisurely pace. It was 37 degrees and we were bundled up, laughing already about another of our traditions, how my daughter and I run up to the mile marker signs and my husband takes a picture of us.

Before we left for the race course, I drank a cup of coffee and a smoothie. Not even a mile in and I was anticipating the Porta potty, usually found around Mile Marker Two...

But alas, someone at the Turkey Trot organization let me down big time this year because there was no Porta potty. The rest of the race I was consumed by thoughts of my full bladder, while my daughter and husband made jokes about how I could dart off behind a mile marker sign and do my business, and no one, probably, would even notice.

To keep from killing them, I planned my dinner menu in my head. I watched the people walking around us, the other leisurely-paced people, the bundled up babies in strollers and the sweater-wearing dogs. One girl in front of us walked the entire way on crutches. She was wearing shorts. She was not wearing a hat or gloves. She had one leg.

I was amazed by this girl. I wanted to give her my hat and gloves. She was busy moving along on her crutches and chatting with the people beside her. I couldn't bear it anymore. I asked her if she wanted my hat and gloves and she laughed and said no.

I realized I hadn't thought about my bladder for a while and I was filled with gratitude.

We walked to the next marker and took our silly pictures. We walked across the finish line. We walked home, (okay, I ran like a maniac and made a beeline toward the bathroom).

Now I am basting the turkey between paragraphs, musing on gratitude, thankful for warm houses with bathrooms, grateful for family and friends, the ones here and not here, the enormous meal soon to be eaten, the sunny lawn through my front window, this place, this now familiar town, our home.


  1. Great tradition. I love the story about the neighbor, and how that grew into an invite. A kind neighbor surprised ME my first winter in my new home with the 180 foot driveway that dives into a ravine--I'd been prepared to park at the top of the drive, then get the snow blower going, shovel the parts that it couldn't climb. He'd done my ENTIRE drive with his four-wheeler and plow blade. Ever since, I've been baking bread now and then, sharing chili or part of a big batch of soup. And many a snowy day, he's saved me from that long chore of removing snow.