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Jenifer’s Journal: All in the family

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the eons, it’s that you can’t give up on your family, no matter how tempting they make it. — Rick Riordan

Just a little while ago I was looking out my kitchen window, practicing gratitude. In the family of seasons, November may not be the pretty one, or the gracious one, or the most mercurial, in fact, it seems to be quite pragmatic and no-nonsense, dispatching as it does with showy October and directing our attention to its more introverted winter sisters, but it does have those skies.

The classic leaden gray one that seems to be threatening snow even when the temperature is above freezing, and the one that is outside my window right now, with banks of brooding gray clouds that seem unaware of the high, billowing white ones amassed behind them with huge chips of bright blue in between.

Magnificent, portentous — my favorite kind of sky. Thank you, November.

In recent years I can’t tell you how many people have declared that Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday. Has it always been or am I just paying more attention?  And what accounts for this favoritism?  The five-day weekend? The apres-dinner football?

A fondness for the traditional menu or some part of it — the turkey, the gravy, the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, the pumpkin pie — all items that we could eat any time of the year but, with the understandable exception of the mashed potatoes, rarely do? 

Or is it an acquired taste for gratitude that perhaps has to develop over the years until we come to find out that it, too, can be feasted upon.

I certainly didn’t know that as a kid. I only had eyes for Christmas and didn’t appreciate being dragged over to my Uncle Buzzy’s fancy house and those once-a-year cousins I barely knew. They didn’t have much use for me either so, relegated to the kids’ table, we’d all sit there in silence until the turkey came, staring at the dish of useless carrot and celery sticks and those nasty fat black olives.

However, over the past 65 years, I guess I’ve acquired a taste for my family, too.  I’m thankful for all of them, both sides, young, old, living and dead. I wish we could all get together this Thanksgiving, those cousins included, but with all the delightful additions of the last several decades, to paraphrase “Jaws” Chief Brody, “We’re gonna need a bigger table.”

Thank you, family.

Also, after all my angst-slinging of two weeks ago, I’m extremely thankful that my American family may still be intact after all. The mid-term elections turned out to be, at the very least, sane, the first step toward civility, maybe.

Thanks to thousands of our family members, those intrepid, integrious election workers, who performed their duties with graceful efficiency. Thank you. There seems to be something for everyone in the outcomes. Nobody too happy, just the way our national family seems to like it.

We’re not exactly “cured,” maybe, but we seem to be headed toward possible recovery and even renewal. Thank you, America.

Over the years this island has taught me in many ways about family, about belonging, if only by virtue of the fact that, as wildly different as we may be, we all take the ferry, an occasional bane and yet ultimately, even if we don’t admit it, a benefit for all of us who live here.

I haven’t made an official study of it, but I submit that more of us have bumped into one another in the most unlikely of places all over the world than any other small town residents from any other place with a similar year-round population in America.

But even when it’s just on a street corner in New York City or at the Riverhead Walmart, I’ll bet when we meet one another we feel a special recognition. Because of that ferry and the island that it serves, we know one another even if we’ve never been formally introduced. Thank you, Island, and the ferry we rode in on.

This nest of families we’re all a part of — global, national, community, extended and nuclear, not to mention the “specific” one (as in “species”) — are, of course, all connected whether or not we acknowledge those connections, and regardless of how isolated, alienated, or anonymous we may feel. We all belong in spite of ourselves.

So, wherever you’re dining tomorrow, and whichever “family” you’re dining with, take an extra helping of the special sauce, gratitude, and, in spite of some mixing of metaphors, avail yourselves of this advice: Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.  Thank you, Rumi.

Happy Thanksgiving.