Jon Carroll’s Thanksgiving column has always been a favorite part of the holiday. It is comfortably free of the strident religious and/or militaristic overtones that give other holiday columns their soft emanations of uneasiness.
At Christmas, for instance, some columnists prosletyize the divinity of Christ — I know some of you folks have made up your minds about that one, but not me — and on the Fourth of July columnists wrestle with the question of whether all those simulated aerial bombardments represent the most useful form of nationalism available.
At Thanksgiving, Carroll asks if we can wholeheartedly support A) roasted turkey, B) friends and C) gratitude. His opinions on these matters are unambiguous; he is in favor of them all. He’s right. And when my friends complain about things being “over-PC,” I don’t see them petitioning for the return of the Squanto-give-corn-style Thanksgiving iconography. That alone is something to be thankful for.
Carroll reminds us that Thanksgiving provides a formal context in which to consider the instances of kindness that have enlightened our lives – the moments of grace that have gotten us through when all seemed lost. He’s right; these are fine and sentimental subjects for contemplation.
First, Carroll instructs, there are the public personalities, artists and entertainers and philosophers, who have been there when they were needed, whether they knew it or not. For me, I wish to think kind thoughts about Kim Stanley Robinson, Alfonso Cuarón, Wesley Morris, Gillian Flynn, Mike Nichols, Isabel Allende, Robin Williams, Greg Orman, Adam Gopnik, and Malala Yousafzai.
Second, the teachers, “the men and women who took the time to fire a passion for the abstract, to give us each a visceral sense of the continuity of history and the adventure of the future.” And, in my case, inspired me to join their ranks. Today I thank Nancy Rubin, Ada Wada, Carl Brush, Diane McDonald, Peter Euben, Frank Tomasulo, Tom Lehrer, and Priya Jaikumar, just for starters.
Third, I thank people who have helped Dar on this special-needs road. Today I thank Michael at Hopkins Elementary, Mary-Jane and Rachel at California Children’s Services, Sonia at Feldenkreis, Aliyah and Sunny at STE, Sophie at BIA, Libby and Lauren at Thousand Oaks, and our friends, Shakti, Barbara, and Tunde. They, among others, have dug deep within themselves and tried hard to make Dar dig deep within himself, and for that I’m very grateful.
And now a moment for old friends now estranged, victims of the flux of alliances and changing perceptions. There was something there once, and that something is worth honoring as well. I think about these people more than I’d like to admit; thanks for reminding me about the good part, Jon Carroll.
My amazing wife and our wonderful children. My father, my dear departed mother, my aunts and uncles in this world and the next one, especially Aunt Julie and Uncle Jim, who have been so steadfast, generous, and loving through every year I can remember. My beloved cousins, Norine, Maureen, Michael, Colleen, Aran, and Brian. My extended family, with whom I’ve shared, in the past, open hearts and messy Thanksgivings. When your nuclear family is just you and your mother, you sometimes need to expand your circle, and some people have made that process particularly pleasant. In no particular order, I’m thinking of Mike, Tanya, Seth, Almira, Steven, Ginger, Matt, and Corrie.
And though I’ve already quoted liberally from Mr. Carroll, let me thank him as well as give him the final word: “And the final bead on the string is for this very Thanksgiving, this particular Thursday, and the people with whom we will be sharing it. Whoever they are and whatever the circumstances that have brought us together, we will today be celebrating with them the gift of life and the persistence of charity in a world that seems bent on ending one and denying the other.
“Thanks. A lot.”