Finally, Thanky-G (am I really the only person who refers to it as such?) is upon us. Rather than meditate on what I am thankful for and how many papers I need to finish in this five-day time span, I choose to reflect upon the two most memorable Thanksgivings I have had.

For the better part of my childhood, my Thanksgivings were spent at my cousins’ grandparents’ house. It was beautiful and big and had a big fireplace. Mrs. Rockwood (my cousins’ grandmother) would make apple cider from scratch, complete with cinnamon sticks swirling in the pitcher, and there would be a multitude of food: rolls, squash, onions and peas, stuffing, potatoes, pumpkin bread, cranberry sauce, gravy, stuffing, apple pie, pecan pie, mince meat pie, pumpkin pie and, of course, turkey. It wasn’t the food that made this particular Thanksgiving memorable; it was the “play” my cousins, sister and I had spent the previous two weeks writing in order to perform for The Grown-Ups. It was a retelling of the first Thanksgiving, and somehow Pocahontas got thrown into the mix as well. The most logical reason I can find for this historical discrepancy is that we felt that a play was absolutely worthless unless it contained at least one beautiful princess. We pooled our most precious dress-up clothes in order to have stellar costumes, and tried to create a set using household items. All was wonderful-until time came to divvy up the parts. My cousin Anna and I were both hopelessly bossy, stubborn and close in age; naturally, I felt I was the ideal Pocahontas, while she begged to differ. The argument went something like this:

Me: “I should be Pocahontas because my hair is long and black.”

Anna: “It isn’t black, it’s brown.”

Me: “Well, it’s darker than your hair. Whoever heard of a blonde Pocahontas?!”

Anna: “You’re a brat! You think just because you’re the oldest you can be whatever you want.”

Seven-year-old Emily: “Guys, c’mon-”

Anna and I simultaneously: “SHUT UP EMMY!”

You get the point. It was finally decided Anna would be Pocahontas, but I would be Pocahontas’s equally lovely older sister. Everyone else had to settle for being Pilgrims. The play was performed before dinner; we forgot lines, bickered while “onstage” and rewrote the better part of early American history. Needless to say, it was a hit. My mom still remembers it and laughs.

Fast forward seven years to a dramatically different but equally Thanksgiving. Parents had divorced, beloved family members had passed and dress-up clothes and dreams of Native American princesses had long been put in the attic. My first Thanksgiving while in college was not what I expected; it was mostly spent in the basement of a church in a neighboring town, with my family and other volunteers serving Thanksgiving dinner to many families who, for but a twist of fate, could have been us. I walked around for an hour and a half refilling coffee, but it was my younger sister and brother who made the real difference. They had sat down with a man who could have been anywhere from 48 to 65 and talked to him. I noticed he was crying, and after we had left the church I asked my sister why he was crying, afraid that either she or my brother had accidentally insulted him. She replied: “He said it had been a while since anybody had sat down and talked with him. I guess he was just really overwhelmed by it.” This statement has stayed with me for the past two years, and with any luck will never leave me.

Be thankful for the little moments. Life gives so many, yet we remember so few, and that in itself is a sort of tragedy. Bicker, help others, or simply gorge on turkey and pie. Make your Thanksgiving memorable, and be thankful that it is.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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