Cottrel: Thanksgiving traditions change but gratitude remains

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With Thanksgiving this week, traditions are strong in our thoughts as we prepare for family gatherings.

We look forward to the annual appearance favorite recipes; Mom’s pecan pie, Grandma’s homemade bread, mashed potatoes served by an uncle with a large utility spoon and a turkey generously carved by Dad. Maybe the traditional turkey gravy is smooth or full of lumps but what really matters is that it was made with love. Traditions can be such a comfort.

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As a military family, our tradition was that the holiday was almost always different from the year before. There were different houses, different guests joining us around the table every year and different kinds of turkey dressing. Some of our guests even called it stuffing. Some used cornbread and some added oysters, but it was always yummy.

Some years we were at home or at a friend’s house. But no matter where we were, Thanksgiving was observed.

Last year I had the whole extended family here. It was our first Thanksgiving without my mom. Since we used her recipes, our buffet looked reassuringly the same. We missed her terribly but we braved on to have the family gathering she always insisted that we have.

My 90-year-old dad and his friend Bruce spent the afternoon giggling in the dining room and watching the youngest grand kids steal pickles, lick off the juice and put the pickles back in the relish tray. Those of us on Dad’s good side were warned away from the dill pickle spears later in the afternoon. Thank you, Dad. We survived that different Thanksgiving and have fond memories of it.

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This year will be our first Thanksgiving without Dad. Holiday recipes have been assigned. We will carry on the traditions and give thanks that we had Mom and Dad as long as we did. Thanksgiving will go on.

When one of us leaves the family table, others join us. We have two new babies who have been born into our extended family this year and we will give thanks for them.

I’m so thankful that we have embraced different traditions over the years. I hope being able to adapt will be easier for us as changes naturally occur. We will give thanks for the mix of traditional and new.

And as always I give thanks for this wonderful community that we all share.

Please take that time to give thanks for our many neighbors who are willing to give of themselves to help others. I’ve seen them visiting the sick, working in snack bars, teaching Sunday school, raking leaves, driving the car pool, welcoming strangers, or even just opening a door with a smile. We need to give thanks for all those coaches, and leaders of 4H and scouts.

I’m thankful for all the volunteers who put on our local festivals and parades. Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Heritage of Flight, Apple Butter, Fair at New Boston, Community Night Outs and our upcoming Christmas tree lighting and New Year’s Eve. We could not have all this fun without unselfish community members.

We all need to say thank you to our amazing emergency service departments — firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, police, deputies, troopers, dispatchers and road crews. When it comes to emergency response services, we are indeed one of the richest communities in the world. I am so grateful for this.

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We should all be thankful for Enon Relief, Impact Bethel, FYI and all the other organizations that work hard to respond to the needs of our neighbors. These good folks supply food pantries, Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets, free bicycles, school supplies, free dinners, and their work is a labor of love, compassion and faith. Please support them with your donations.

I am thankful that there are many places of worship in our communities. We are free to worship or not. It is our choice. The news reports about martyrdom and religious persecution makes me mindful of the blessings of freedom of religion.

I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving.

And a word to the wise, avoid the dill pickle spears if there are children in attendance and there is no juice remaining in the bowl.

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