D. Kevin McNeir
Executive Editor, New Jersey Urban News
When I was a little boy, one of my favorite times of the year was the beginning of the week that marked Thanksgiving Day. My mother began preparations for dinner several days ahead of the big family gathering that we hosted every year. And her list was long with tasks for everyone to complete: polishing the silver, pulling out decorations including Christmas ornaments from dusty boxes and making sure we had enough food and libations on hand to satisfy an army.
Sure, my family had its share of those who ate so much that they had to unbutton their pants after dinner. Others took full advantage of my dad’s “open bar” – pouring heavy-handedly, sipping or guzzling and refilling their glasses until all they could do was babble incoherently.
There were tables and several fresh decks of playing cards ready and waiting for those who savored the thrill of achieving unbridled domination in bid whist showdowns. In the family room, with the fireplace roaring, football aficionados shouted at the television screen as our home team Detroit Lions did their best to make us proud.
Early Friday morning, after the party was over, my mother would send me and Daddy outside where we would decorate the bushes with Christmas lights. Meanwhile, she and my older sister would handle things inside – assembling the artificial Xmas tree, putting candles in the windows and addressing more than 100 cards so they could be ready for the mailman on Saturday.
Sadly, those days are long gone with many my loved one, including both of my parents and most of the adults who I would grow to love and admire so much, no longer alive. But the magic and the memories remain – and they bring me inordinate amounts of joy and solace – particularly when I am alone with my thoughts.
Now, I have become the elder, taking over the reins of those warriors of yesteryear who wore their badges of honor with pride and made our house a home – a safe place filled with love. Now, I have donned the role of father and grandfather, remaining diligent and ever prayerful as my children and grandchildren continue to discover their own passions and achieve their dreams.
But today, as the temperature falls in 2020, we are met with challenges – strange and frightening ones – which neither I nor the elders who once mentored me could have ever imagined. We now face a horrific health pandemic – coronavirus – that has pervaded our lives and changed the world, bringing sickness, death and fear on its heels.
So, while many Americans fortunate enough to have their own families and cherished friends struggle with sadness and depression because they’re unable to safely gather in groups or travel to other cities and states for Thanksgiving Day celebrations, I find myself strangely at peace.
Unlike my children or grandsons, I grew up in an era in which we learned how to be patient.
I was lucky – no, I was blessed – to have parents who rarely said no to my requests for things that really mattered to me. Yet, at the same time, they taught me how to wait for things worth waiting for.
They taught me the importance and necessity of “delayed gratification.”
They showed me how wonderful things could be when we dreamed and hoped and planned for outcomes that could easily come to pass – but only in God’s time.
And so, while I want to go home for the holidays and play cards, and laugh until I can barely stand and eat to my heart’s content and sip on my favorite holiday beverages, I know that I must wait.
We all must wait as we use our collective knowledge, creativity and experiences to battle and defeat this deadly virus.
This year, there will be no traveling over the river and through the woods, as the song suggests, “to grandmother’s (or grandfather’s) house we go.”
But there’s always tomorrow.
And I plan to be in the house, at the table and with my arms open and ready to envelop those who I love gently against my chest. I’ll hold on to my memories of the past for now – grateful that I have so many beautiful, treasured experiences to recall and remember.
There’s always tomorrow for dreams to come true.
And if I have my way, when tomorrow comes, I’ll be there making brand new memories – better memories. Memories that my children and my grandchildren will one day cherish as I continue to celebrate those that live within my heart and soul and mind.
It’s almost Thanksgiving Day. Isn’t it wonderful?