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McGrath: Thanksgiving is not just for the big things

In his list things be thankful for guest columnist David McGrath refers jokingly his three kids never having served time

In his list of things to be thankful for, guest columnist David McGrath refers jokingly to his three kids never having served time in prison. | Supplied photo

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Updated: December 24, 2012 6:56AM



Last year, I wrote about a family Thanksgiving celebration in Wisconsin at which everything that could possibly go wrong did.

The column’s purpose was to shift focus to the important things in life such as family and community because the material, trivial and uncontrollable concerns of life on this planet can drive us bananas.

Yet, as usual, I was wrong by at least half because little things also give us comfort and happiness. Without small pleasures, life would be, well, bleak.

Therefore, it’s important on this Thanksgiving Day, both for one’s disposition as well as for general human relations, to acknowledge those small things that enrich and enliven our existence:

The star or planet in the eastern sky that I see most mornings before sunrise when it’s dark and quiet and I’m alone. I’m no astronomer, but I’m pretty certain it’s Venus, and it gives daily assurance that there is something bigger to which we are all subordinate.

My old colleague and pal, Jerry Kamper, whose amalgam of humor, irony and creativity make his emails an anticipated event.

Ice cold beer, which along with steak on the barbecue, sates me with a dose of what I will miss when I don’t get to heaven.

One cat commenting to another about a snarling dog chained to a post: “How come the most ignorant among us are always the loudest?” I’m thankful for this and all New Yorker magazine cartoons that, with a bit of black ink and a single sentence, can make any person, no matter the mood or disposition, laugh out loud in an empty room — reassuring proof that human beings are unique among all creatures.

Starbucks and Seattle’s Best, for making morning a religious ceremony.

Dogs with big heads that run up to you, stop, then stretch at your feet.

No-alcohol beer, methadone for retired softball players.

Tom Finn, the most efficient editor I’ve known, who never fails to get the job done with a minimum of either drama or rigmarole.

Lakes, oceans and rivers for their mystery, wonder and bounty. And for never failing to make me quiet.

Boats, the most gracefully beautiful man-made creations. For me, Disney World has never had anything over a marina.

Today’s massive communication network that permits everyone from the Associated Press to the teenager skateboarding down the sidewalk to not only read this morning’s top story in China but also to fact-check it.

Rosangela’s pizza, with cheese as subtly flavorful as fine wine.

Dawn anywhere in this country — inspiring plans, energy and hope.

Thursday Night football, a hungrily greeted fix from the NFL Network. No more going cold turkey Tuesday to Sunday.

My reader(s) — for letting me presume a connection.

My three children, Mike, Jack and Janet — for not being in prison. Also for being smart and funny and brave and independent.

Will Ferrell, in the tradition of the Native American Trickster, who makes it OK for all of us to goof.

Charlie, Jimmy, Rosie, Net, Pat, Sherman, and Nancy — my five brothers and two sisters who made team sports possible in our back yard and who can still make me laugh today.

Getting a 5-pound slab of a newspaper on Sunday morning — news, color photos, funnies, advertising and enough separate sections to last into Monday.

For the American electorate that turned out to make their voices heard Nov. 6 in the world’s greatest democracy since Athens in the 6th century B.C.

Fox’s pizza with its telltale flavor of anise, served sizzling hot on razor-thin crust.

For my mother Gertrude, who baked 120 turkeys in her lifetime, give or take a few. This Thanksgiving she is 92, and someone is baking one for her for a change.

Early morning cold when you can smell the crisp, vaguely sweet hint of the season’s first snow.

The arrival of that first snow, matting and muting suburban cacophony with poetry and beauty.

For Saturday night dates with Marianne — 2,000 and counting.

David McGrath, a former resident of Evergreen Park and Oak Forest, is an emeritus professor of English at the College of DuPage.



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