My daughters, friends and I are all inveterate list-makers. Without our “to-do” lists, very little would get done.
I wasn’t always like this! I remember sitting in church decades ago as a college coed, as my (far more organized and professionally advanced) roommate sat beside me and tweaked her “to do” list as the ceremony went on. I was utterly aghast at the encroachment of the temporal on the divine. Years later, I have utterly, thoroughly, gotten over it.
I rarely start the day without consulting the list I jotted down before turning out the lights the night before, lest I toss and turn at three a.m. trying to remember some errand to be jostled into place with the efficiency of a string of dominos. Pickups, drop-offs, groceries, doctor appointments, fitting an hour or two of writing into a busy day, taking a brief break by the lake shore. “Like clockwork” is the ideal.
When I was still living in a much-larger house and was hosting Thanksgiving dinner for fifteen or eighteen guests, the lists were long and covered multiple days of juggling and planning. Celery to be chopped, onions to saute, the spare turkey breast to be roasted a day or two before, potatoes to peel, the house to clean, spare bedrooms to freshen, clutter to hide.
When my children were small, making it through the Christmas season took on the planning complexity of the Normandy invasion. Presents to buy and hide, separate wrapping paper and cards from Santa to procure, stockings to hang, cookies to bake, the tree to decorate, cards to address, the school’s annual Christmas program to attend, costume and supply with desserts.
We all have our “bucket lists” (visit Manchu Picchu, swim with dophins, ride horseback in Monument Valley) and our “New Years resolution” lists (lose a few more pounds, declutter, write more often, master the fox trot) and even our “get healthier” lists (less sugar, more veggies, less snacking, pump iron).
But then Thanksgiving Day rolls around, and I take the time to remember that the things I am really thankful for are the things that money can’t buy. And many of them are things that I can’t even see.
I’m so very grateful for my children who—while they may have gotten their start inside my body—emerged to make me a much better person than I ever was before. I’m thankful for my friends who, over the years, have made me laugh, propped me up, given me great advice and forgiven me for not always taking it. I’m profoundly thankful that I’ve survived a couple of accidents that could have killed me. And I could expand this list for hours. The scent of a rose in evening. Frost on a window with daybreak fracturing through. Second chances. Sunsets and moonrises, bluebirds and red-tailed hawks, a robin’s song, the smell of lake air and the feel of warm sand under my feet. The wag of my dog’s tail when I say “good boy,” and the purr of a kitten.
This Thanksgiving I’m not cooking a big dinner. I’m going to be joining most of my children (and my two grandchildren) at their dad’s house forty miles away. My entire contribution to the dinner is a gluten-free chocolate cake and a small pan of stuffing. I’m pretty sure I will consult a list before I start driving just to make sure I’ve got everything in the car that I planned to bring.
But as I drive, I’ll be thinking of that collection of intangibles that you can’t put a price on but that give me such joy. And in the scheme of what’s really important to give thanks for, it’s definitely “top of the list.”