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Learning to be thankful

Let me be honest with you. I’ve been struggling with this column since I wrote my last one, when I realized I would be writing a column for Thanksgiving Day. I didn’t want it to be a column filled with clichés. I wanted it to be heartfelt and honest. But then I realized it’s almost impossible to write a Thanksgiving Day column without being a little cliché, so here we go.

Thanksgiving wasn’t always one of my favorite holidays growing up because we lived 12 hours away from all my family in Pittsburgh, Pa. We would rarely go out there for holidays. So normally our Thanksgiving, a holiday to gather as a family and give thanks for everything in our lives, always felt a little hollow to me.

Now, please, don’t get me wrong, growing up so far away from all my uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents allowed me to have a set of friends who were like uncles, aunts and grandparents. They were our Iowa family, and sometimes they would join us for Thanksgiving dinner. But I always dreamed about a year when my family from Pittsburgh would join us in Iowa for the holiday.

Now growing up we would take the occasional holiday trek to Pittsburgh. And my memories of those were what I always wanted. Hanging out with my uncles and aunts, playing games with my cousins and getting bedtime stories from my grandparents. But they were just memories by the next year when we stayed in Iowa.

Jump ahead to my high school years. My brother and I are three years apart. So he was a senior when I was a freshmen. Once he went off to college, we didn’t see him a lot except for school breaks. And I started to realize how important it is to gather as a family, be it your immediate family or your extended family. I came to crave those times when Shawn would come home from school, and we could all torment each other as we did in the olden days much to Mama’s chagrin.

Then it was my turn to go off to college. For my freshman year, my parents and I went to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving, and it was everything I could ever want. Time to catch up with the family I hadn’t seen in a few years. That year, I realized how truly blessed I am. The following year, my oldest cousin got married the Saturday after Thanksgiving. So out we went again. Last year, Thanksgiving was a few days late for us because my niece decided she had waited long enough and said it was time to be born.

As we get older and involved in other families, we have to start dividing up the holidays. Christmas is normally a run around time since my brother travels to Tennessee to see his wife’s family. So Thanksgiving is the time I know we will gather as a family and give our thanks for our health and everything we share.

By the time this will be published, I will have already helped my dad make our homemade pumpkin pies, probably got into a teasing war with my brother and hopefully be enjoying the smells of homemade quiche and cinnamon twists as we watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

As soon as this day is over, I will anxiously be counting down the days for next year because for the first time ever my whole family will be coming to Iowa for the holiday! But before I get too crazy making the plans, I have to remember life is short and family is valuable. I intend to enjoy every minute of this holiday.

I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving. If that’s with your whole family or all your friends, I wish you and yours a happy holiday.

Next up, Christmas!

BCR Copy Editor Sarah Maxwell can be reached at

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