When it comes to giving thanks on Thanksgiving, most people I know focus on the big things in their lives.
While I cannot even begin to give enough thanks for all of the wonderful things I have in my life, I have decided that this Thanksgiving I will really try to pay attention to all the little things that make every day worth getting up for.
I spent Thanksgiving break with my mom, brother, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. Eleven of us together in one house for a full week (and yes, I gave thanks for the fact that there were 5 bathrooms). We played games, made meals, went for walks on the beach. But the concept of really being grateful for little, inconsequential things was triggered by a televised, high school volleyball game. I have no explanation as to why we turned it on, but for some reason we all watched. People took sides, started rooting for one team or another.
Everyone, including my grandmother, was cheering wildly for their team, and only toward the end did it begin to seem strange that we were cheering for a game none of us had a stake in. We knew nothing about the players or much about the schools. But, that couldn’t have mattered less. We were having a ball laughing and cheering.
In the grand scheme of things, who won that volleyball championship has already been forgotten, but being with my family and enjoying their company made that seemingly little, moment gloriously unforgettable. Sometimes it takes a little thing to remind you that simple pleasures can be cherished.
I am thankful for all kinds of things: turning on the television at the best part of a favorite movie; finding a good friend on gchat; going to Safeway and having something on my shopping list massively on sale; having exact change; a nice long walk on the beach; a really good piece of hot rye bread from my favorite deli.
We’ve all heard the saying “don’t sweat the small stuff,” and that is certainly good advice, but it may be just as important to truly appreciate the small stuff like going to the Coho and discovering it’s your favorite scone day. Sometimes one of those little things can absolutely set the tone, or change your mood for an entire day.
For me, Thanksgiving is also a time to remember simple, yet profound family traditions. Ours is a tradition that began when my grandparents began celebrating Thanksgiving with their best friends decades ago. Now those close friends still make up the core of the group, but there are two (and sometimes three) generations of family added on. Even though we don’t see them often, there’s something warm and familiar about spending this holiday with the same people every year.
Traditions are wonderful, if for no other reason than they remind you of the things you can count on. They can be as formal and universal as a big Thanksgiving meal, or much more intimate, the little things you share with the people closest to you. My brother is always the first to give me a hug when I fly into the Burbank airport, my dad always drives me back to the airport when I head back to school. Then when I get back to Davis, there is always an e-card waiting from my mom. I love these little traditions; there’s nothing quite as heartwarming as a repeat performance you can count on to put a smile on your face.
When I sat down to write this column, I considered talking about being thankful for even the things that seem negative in our lives. I toyed with the idea of a more philosophical Thanksgiving prose complete with thanks for health, family and being surrounded by love. I even considered ignoring Thanksgiving completely. Ultimately I realized I sometimes spend too much time consumed with thinking about the big picture. There’s plenty of time for that. So that’s how I hit on number eight on my list. Giving thanks to the little things that have made me feel blessed all my life. I hope that never stops.
EMILY KAPLAN hates that whenever she packs to go back from somewhere, things never fit back as neatly as when she left. She’d be eternally grateful if anyone having packing tips would e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.