One of the things I miss most about my childhood is Thanksgiving. Growing up, we were fortunate enough to live two or three blocks from my Grandma and Grandpa Ardis. Every day, we would ride our bikes, roller-skate, or walk to their house at least once. We would go through the alley and then down the short, narrow walkway leading to the driveway, often finding Grandma and Grandpa swinging on the back porch.
On Thanksgiving, after driving over to my other Grandma and Grandpa’s house to visit, we would go to Grandma and Grandpa Ardis’ for Thanksgiving dinner. My eight brothers and sisters and I were their only grandchildren, and they loved our laughter and our chatter filling their home. I still remember the kids’ card table and how we couldn’t wait until we reached grown-up status and could join the adults at the leaves-added-table that stretched through the living and dining rooms. Perfectly browned turkey, the dark meat on one plate and the white on another, homemade macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, my grandma’s delicious applesauce Jello, melt-in-your-mouth dinner rolls, and more filled the table , leaving just enough room for our plates, glasses, and silverware.
My grandpa would normally say the prayer, often becoming emotional as he gave thanks for our blessings—a healthy family, food on the table, and so much love. Throughout dinner, we talked and laughed as we savored the flavorful feast. After dinner, my brothers, my dad, and my grandpa would make their way to the couch and chairs to watch football games while my sisters, my mom, and my grandma headed to the kitchen to wash, dry, and put away the dishes. (My sisters often joke that I could never be found when it was time to do dishes, though my recollection is quite different.) When the dinner dishes were done, we would serve the pie and wash and dry those dishes, and then we would join the boys to watch the games, head outside to play, or sit in the kitchen talking.
Oh what I would do to have all of my grandparents, my dad, my sister (Ann), and my brother (Tim) here again. I don’t think I would ever want to leave.
Thanksgiving is entirely different now that they are gone and I live so far away. Although it isn’t the same at all for me these days, Thanksgiving remains my favorite holiday. I love the idea of a day set aside to give thanks for all of the blessings in my life. I try to give thanks on a regular basis, but I don’t always succeed. Thanksgiving grounds me and allows me to reflect on every one of God’s blessings in my life.
I am thankful for being raised in a family where love and faith--rather than money--were the foundation.
I am thankful for all of my brothers and sisters, their spouses, my nieces and nephews, and my great nieces and nephews.
I am thankful for the blessing of so many incredible friends—in Peoria, in Texas, in North Carolina, and in other cities and states.
I am thankful to have a home, a car, a warm, cozy bed, food in the fridge, plants in my garden, neighbors who look out for me, and the fuzzy slippers on my feet as I write this post.
I am thankful for the students I taught during my 29-year career, for my co-workers, and for the privilege of teaching.
I am thankful for the opportunity to work in fields outside of teaching now, for those who have given me these opportunities, and for the ability to expand my mind on a daily basis.
I am more thankful than I could ever express for my mom’s amazing brother, Dick, and her friends who all love her so much.
I am thankful for my health, for every breath I take, and for all of the other blessings, both simple and significant, in my life.
And, of course, I am eternally grateful to still have my mom. As many of you know, my mom lives with Parkinson’s, and that isn’t easy. Over the past few months, she has taken a number of bad falls and has reluctantly started using a walker. Through it all, she continues to display her incredible sense of humor. Through it all, she teaches us what true strength looks like. Through it all, she keeps getting back up and stubbornly demanding her independence. And through it all, she remains steadfast in her faith and in her devotion to God.
For all of this, and for so much more, I give thanks.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I pray that each of you be as abundantly blessed!
Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now helps companies with business communications and social media and works as a sales coordinator for Tony Roma's and Macaroni Grill. Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.