Demi Lawrence is a freshman telecommunications journalism major and writes "Demi's Diems" for the Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Demi at email@example.com.
A turkey roasts in the oven while rolls cook to a golden brown below it. The house is warm from all the baking going on, and a sugar cookie candle burns on the corner table. I help myself to some finger foods — a cheese cube and salami platter — while grandma cooks the green beans on the stove across from me.
Nothing feels quite better than knowing you’re about to demolish a meal, gain back the 10 pounds you lost this summer, then sit back and watch your favorite football team get annihilated yet again on Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is a beautiful day for food lovers everywhere, myself included. But giving thanks goes farther than being grateful that Aunt Glo made candied sweet potatoes again. I know I am guilty of taking this holiday and the three-day break from school for granted, as just another check mark on the calendar. We are all guilty, but I think we all need to take some self-reflection time to evaluate what exactly it is we are thankful for this Thanksgiving week.
I’m grateful for life. I’m grateful for the fact that my lungs still inhale and exhale, that my eyes still move and that my heart still beats. My great Uncle Jerry’s ashes sit on the desk beside the dinner table at my grandma’s house to remind me.
I think I was 12 when he passed. Leukemia took his life before I was old enough to really understand his crude sense of humor. His last Thanksgiving was spent at home. He had just been released from the hospital. At the time, I didn’t know why, but now I know it was to let him have a good last few weeks or months without being hooked up to machines.
Jerry took a bite into my grandma’s famous cheese ball with his Ritz cracker and cried. Again, I didn’t understand why then. But my dad later told me that that was the first real food he’d had in a long time, not just liquid through a feeding tube.
At dinner that evening, he scarfed his turkey down, hardly stopping to swallow. Back then, it was all just another Thanksgiving to me. I didn’t know I’d never see my favorite uncle again after that night. He passed a few months later, I think.
When I go home next week and sit at my grandma’s dinner table, Jerry’s smiling face in a picture frame will remind me, as it does every year, to be grateful for the life I am still able to live: Grateful for my health, grateful for my nutrition, and, of course, grateful for grandma’s cheese balls.
I’m grateful for family, even with our flaws and malfunctions. I do not remember a time where my mom and dad had Thanksgiving together. It’s always been dad’s Thanksgiving in the morning, mom’s Thanksgiving in the evening. Coming from a divorced household, I always just saw the holiday as a chance to get double the food.
Now, I see it as a chance to impact twice as many people. Hug twice as many people. Catch up on lost time with twice as many people.
My dad’s Thanksgiving is usually just my grandma, my papaw, my dad and I. Just us four. We usually end up talking about softball; my papaw is in the American Softball Association Hall of Fame, after all. Even though I quit several years ago, it’s always been the common ground on which we can talk.
Also, my grandma’s mac and cheese. Enough said there.
My mom’s Thanksgivings are bigger, though. My stepdad has lots of family, and I love them all so very dearly. This dinner is the kind where photos are taken for Facebook so that all my grandma’s friends can gush over how “beautiful young people” her grandchildren are.
I’ll take the compliments as they come, don’t get me wrong, but that’s not what I’m there for.
I’m there for the unconditional love. I’m there for the sweet embraces, the catching up, the laughter. I’m there for my favorite little cousin, to hear about how seventh grade is going for him. I’m there to console my grandma, that, no, I am not running low on groceries in college and yes, I am attending all my classes.
I’m there for the things that are intangible; the genuine care and love that cannot be replicated by anyone but your own family.
I’m grateful for love, and that it truly cannot be broken by time or distance apart. I’m grateful for safety, and that I am not sleeping on cold concrete with no proper shelter tonight. I’m grateful for food, and that I get to lay my head on my pillow with a full stomach. I’m grateful for happiness, and that while it doesn’t always stay with me 24/7, I learn a lesson from the times I spend unhappy.
I’m grateful for higher education, and that I get to call Ball State my home for the next four years. I’m grateful for the friendships that build a nook inside my heart, as well as the ones that take part of me when they leave.
Overall, I’m just grateful to be living this crazy life.
Life may not be great, it may be terrible, actually. You may have just lost your job and can’t afford more than a $6 rotisserie chicken from Walmart for Thanksgiving.
You may have just lost a loved one, and can’t find the will to even so much as get out of bed in the morning.
Maybe you and your family just don’t see eye to eye, and Thanksgiving is like digging at a scar that never quite healed. I’m sorry if that’s you, I really am. Maybe you can’t find one thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, and it’s not my place to tell you that you’re wrong.
But I encourage you to scoop through your heart and find one thing to be grateful for. It can just be the fact that you were able to eat breakfast this morning. At the end of the day, we all should be able find one thing this holiday season to be truly, honestly grateful for. Keep on trying, keep on scooping through your heart. Gratefulness is at the root of all love.