Thursday, November 26, 2015

Cranberry Sauce

So, today many of my friends have written about what they are thankful for.  I didn't get a chance to post anything yet today.  So, as I am home now after a day that included three dog walks, one 5K race, two 2+ hour drives, and an extended family dinner in Pennsylvania, I will take the time to write about what I am thankful for while I listen to Alice's Restaurant.  

And, it occurred to me that I could tell my story of what I am thankful for through cranberry sauce.  Homemade cranberry sauce (with fresh, whole berries) has become a family tradition for many meals.  We make it for Thanksgiving and take it to the extended family gathering in Pennsylvania each year.  We usually serve it with latkes on the day we buy our Christmas tree (an odd family tradition).  And we often serve cranberry sauce with our Christmas Eve dinner.  We also use it as a topping for vanilla (or even chocolate) ice cream if we have a lot of leftovers.

With that digression, let me continue with the story of why I think that cranberry sauce can symbolize all that I am thankful for.

First, being such an important part of the family Thanksgiving experience, I am thankful for all the people in my extended family.  There are many different personalities.  Many different life stories.  None are perfect.  But all are stories of people I have known for many years.  And I care about them all.  And they all care about me.  And today was a wonderful opportunity to speak with my oldest cousin on my father's side whom I have not had a chance to have a half hour conversation with in a while.  She was inquisitive about the tattoo I already have and the idea that I have for a second (whether I ever get it or not).  She was inquisitive about the meaning of saints lives--what each symbolizes and what the meaning is.  And it was just eye opening to hear about what was going on in her life and the lives of her children.  And no matter how different our lives have been in terms of so many things (but not everything) other than having parents who are siblings, we are actually pretty close and have the opportunity to continue to share as our lives moves forward.  And that is a beautiful thing. Which I hope to continue to do with that cousin, other cousins, and the rest of the extended family.

Second, cranberry sauce is red.  The blood that flows through my heart is red.  And the heart is what is used to represent love.  The love that I have for my wife of 23 1/2 years is strong.  And the life we lead is not perfect (is anyone's?) but our marriage has been and continues to be long and strong.  And I am looking forward to many more years.

Third, love is not just romantic.  Love is also for the rest of my immediate family.  And my three sons are pretty amazing.  The oldest with his talent for and focus on music.  The middle one with his wide variety of interests--art, animals, gardening, singing, and many other things.  The youngest one with his interest in sports and food.  Three very different children.  Each one amazing.  I am thankful that Sherry and I can find and provide a wonderful and diverse set of opportunities for the boys and thankful for how they take up the opportunities we provide.  

Fourth, while love is often thought of in narrow terms of romance and family, there is also a term in Greek for the love that is felt among friends. And this year, several of my friendships have deepened in important ways.  One of the best examples was just las night. With my family's kitchen remodel ongoing,  I needed a way to bake and cook for our contribution to the family Thanksgiving dinner I mentioned several paragraphs ago.  So, one of my running friends was willing to have me and my son come over to make scones and cranberry sauce.  It was an adventure in cooking and baking that included a very long time to make cranberry sauce (given that we were making a triple recipe), setting off the kitchen smoke alarm (scones placed too close to the edge of the flat stone baking pan that resulted in some dripping onto the bottom of the oven that caused smoke), and introducing my friend to cranberry sauce in the first place.  

With cranberry sauce, I mentioned that it is red like blood flowing through my heart.  A lot flows through my heart while I run.  And my running is something that is important to me.  And I am blessed to be able to run and share my running with others.  And I am thankful for that.

And finally, while the cranberry sauce is being prepared, the cranberries burst.  The bursting is a sign of the fullness of the cranberries.  And the fullness reminds me of the abundance in my life.  I am thankful for the many things I have in abundance. People who care about me.  People who care about my family.  Working for a great university for almost two decades house.  Cooking and baking.  A salary.  Pets.  Opportunities to mentor. 

So, the cranberries remind me of family directly, are red like the blood that joins family, blood flows through the heart (and cranberries are heart healthy) and that is a reminder of multiple concepts of love, blood is needed for running, and bursting cranberries are a sign of abundance.  What more could I ask for?  I have a great life with lots to be thankful for.  And I hope that I demonstrate my thankfulness not just on Thanksgiving but every day. 

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