Yes, we ate homemade stuffing and green bean casserole. Yes, we went shopping. Yes, we raked leaves, decorated our blue spruce, made leftover turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce, broke the wishbone, made fires in the fireplace, baked sugary, buttery desserts and were really, really thankful. But it is not any of these Thanksgiving-related events brightening my heart right now.
It is instead the little moments, the unexpected, unplanned events of the long weekend, that are inspiring me today. Like last night, and my four year-old in his blue striped pajamas standing next to our dining room table after his third bedtime snack (and way past his bedtime) giving me a private performance of his upcoming school Christmas program.
At first Christian and I were just sitting at the table looking at his school papers and art projects from the week – a finger-painted turkey made with Christian’s hand and five little fingers, a lion's face with pieces of yellow yarn glued on for a mane, a cornucopia with a collage of fruits and vegetables stuck to it. But then our conversation turned to the Christmas program. I knew that Christian had been learning the words and sign language motions to “Go Tell it On the Mountain” because he’d been "rehearsing" it at home. But I didn’t know there were others!
He started singing and doing the motions for another song at the table. When I asked him what song it was he just responded, “You don’t know it. It’s one you never heard before.” But as he kept singing, I thought I recognized it as “A Cradle in Bethlehem,” one of my favorite Christmas songs.
“Wait, Christian,” I said, standing up. “I think I do know that song. I have it here on this CD.”
I played the song and Christian recognized it. He smiled and stood up proudly. I watched him, tiny white lights from the Christmas tree reflecting off of his little blond head -- confident, focused, completely vulnerable yet totally unabashed -- as he sang the words and signed the motions to, "Sing sweet and low your lullaby, till angles say amen…”
It was the last night of Thanksgiving break. It was just the two of us (and Nat King Cole) and it was beautiful.
A few minutes later Henry found me (not surprisingly since whenever there is food Henry is usually not far behind). My little short-stack mounted the high bed like a horse, stepping onto the frame with one leg and with swinging his other leg up onto the soft covers. We snuggled for a while, and talked about his cars. He had three in his hand. He would point to some small part of one of the miniature cars and ask, "What's this?" And I would respond, "That's the number, 43." Or, "What's this?" "That's the tail fin." Or, "What's this?" "That's a yellow stripe."
Then, to our surprised delight we spotted a little black chickadee in the magnolia tree outside my bedroom window. We watched the little white-headed bird until another larger bird which I couldn't identify flew in and frightened it away. Then a female Cardinal alit on the tree. Then a male Cardinal. So exciting! We had so much fun snuggling and car-talking and bird-watching in bed. Just the two of us. It was special.
This year my Thanksgiving was a success, measured not by the number of miles traveled to see family (none), nor by the number of guests around my Thanksgiving table (none -- we were the guests, thank you Angie!), nor by the number of Christmas gifts purchased on Black Friday (again, none). No, my Thanksgiving was a success because of the bounty of beautiful moments spent with my family. The ones I didn't have to travel hundreds of miles to see. The ones for whom I only had to open my eyes.