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Life as performance art

Life as performance art


By Fr. G. Corwin Stoppel

I blame Norman Rockwell for a lot of the angst surrounding the idealistic and perfect Thanksgiving dinner. You remember his famous picture: a platter with a huge turkey, everyone sitting around a table with big smiles on their faces, mother beaming to one side at the perfect dinner she had created for her family and friends. Not a smudge or hair out of place.

Martha “it’s a good thing” Stewart isn’t far behind when it comes to doling out guilt and spiking anxiety meters. Perfection as they present it is near impossible. Generations of hosts and hostesses have martyred themselves to those images.

The first and only rule of a wonderful Thanksgiving is to breathe, relax, revel in imperfections and laugh at the disasters. The things that go wrong are what we remember and treasure for years.

I recall the time Mother left a pan on the burner. Halfway through the meal, little flakes of Teflon floated from the kitchen to the dining room.

That was the year after, an hour before the guests were to arrive, they called to announce their son had come down with the flu.

The year before that my well-stuffed aunt sat down and crushed her husband’s favorite hat. I don’t think it ever regained its shape.

Another elderly aunt, who was slipping into what was then called “second childhood,” took home a platter of dinner rolls before they got passed.

Every year, immediately after the pumpkin pie, Father and the uncles would waddle into the living room, each take a section of newspaper to put over their waists when they loosened their belts and snore up a racket as they slept through football games on the old Atwater Kent. It never occurred to them a little help with the cleanup might be appreciated.

That offer of help didn’t occur to the aunt who pinched the rolls, either. She went into another room and endlessly played “There’s a Song in the Air” on my sister’s piano.

Moments like those are memorable. Perfection isn’t. If you have a litany of near-disasters and full-fledged fiascos, treasure them because they are part of who you are.

But far more importantly, it’s a day to remember the reasons we have to be grateful for what we’ve received. Sometimes, it is a reason to give thanks for what we don’t have — you know, not burning down the garage while deep-frying the turkey out on the driveway. Or not needing to use the Heimlich method to remove part of the dinner that gets stuck in the throat. Those things would be memorable too, but tend to get expensive and interrupt the fire and rescue department.

We have much for which we can be grateful. Sometime on Thursday, regardless of the weather, take a couple minutes to go for a short walk. Take a look at the beauty around us, or nearby homes filled with wonderful people. In no time you’ll have a long list of reasons to celebrate the day.

Treasure, too, the imperfections. Sometime in the future you’ll be the one who starts a sparkling conversation asking, “Do you remember the year when …?”

Happy Thanksgiving.