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Fresh Lenses for Thanksgiving

2012 November 14
by Ann L. Carter

Our prodigal cat Noel continues to luxuriate in the comforts of our house, including my warm bed at night.  We are rather concerned about certain digestive issues and wonder if these are caused by her excessive appetite or parasites she picked up on her mysterious walkabout.  Meanwhile the mice seem to have become quite savvy about the live trap in the kitchen cupboard and have moved upstairs.  Someone suggested I cut the cats’ food in half to make these lazy felines more likely to hunt, but I wouldn’t last long against their pitiful meows.  Instead, I am considering sitting them in front of an instructional YouTube on how to scare rodents away, with possible bribes of tuna on crackers (for the cats, not the mice).

But the big event this week is a film crew of two college students working on a short documentary for a K-State journalism course.  A friend who’s in the class suggested that her group’s topic be a single mother who quit her job to follow an art career, with me as the main subject.   So I’ve been interviewed about life and art and kids, taped making encaustic birds, and “portrait” shot sitting on the front porch swing staring rather vacantly off into the distance.  They also wanted to include my daughters and Wayne, so filmed us while eating dinner.  I was rather horrified by what they might catch on camera, but in the end it went fairly well.  There was less burping at the table from Helen and Rose didn’t run off screaming when she was told to eat with her mouth closed.  Maybe we will even come across as a pretty nice family.

And that thought leads to a memory of a Thanksgiving dinner 25 years ago.  I had begun to dread those traditional dinners, shared with only my aging parents and rather quiet brother.  But a good friend, Sylvia, was newly separated from her husband and needed a place to go for the holiday.  I worried that she would find the meal less than enjoyable and I would only feel more stressed.  But it turned out very different than I had anticipated.  Instead of obsessing that my father might choke on a turkey bone, I shared his concern that Sylvia get a second helping of mashed potatoes and homemade gravy (complete with giblets).  Instead of bristling at my brother’s teasing remarks, I found myself learning things about his work I’d never known before.  Instead of worrying if my mom was feeling under-appreciated for all the work she’d done that day, I noticed how she sparkled from the compliments of someone new to her cooking.   As I saw my family through another’s eyes, I saw a group of people who were bright and funny and kind and who cared about each other in their own unique way.

When I get to see the finished class video, I will try to view it through the eyes of others.  It may show what’s mainly the best of us, but the best of us is also part of who we are.   It is as much of what our family is as the sibling rivalry and meltdowns (include me here) and days when I wonder what it’s all about.

And perhaps that’s what makes Thanksgiving a valuable day to celebrate.  As we look around the table through the fresh lenses of others, we may surprise ourselves to see a family we want to be a part of.  Yesterday, my brother and I and the girls ate a Dillons “Family Chicken Meal Deal” with my 98 year mother, now in an assisted living home.  As we were leaving, she took my hand and told me what a wonderful family she has.   “Yes,” I found myself replying.  “Yes, we are.”















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