my little ones weren't one bit aware of all the fuss 13 years ago, but today they sure are. making my list this afternoon, the older kids passed through the kitchen where i sat writing down items. "oh mom, are you going to make those mashed potatoes? are we going to have corn? i can't wait to eat the turkey. i love thanksgiving food!" my oldest son even went, unprompted, to the thankful tree and wrote out, "thanksgiving food" as his blessing of the day. as i sat scratching down ingredients and items, celery and onion and chicken broth, the children's comments flew excitedly around me. i didn't look up. i wrote and i smiled. cranberries, bread crumbs, marshmallows and olives. and the kids continued naming the good things they remembered from meals in the past. the middle girl asked if we could begin cooking today. sunday. "well...not quite yet," i said, but i reminded her the turkey was already thawing in the outside refrigerator. "that's sort of like cooking. at least it is preparing," i said. no, there were other things to be done first. there is a certain order of events when planning for a holiday and its grand meal.
so off to the store i went, long, long list in hand and a little joy in heart. once in the market though, it didn't take very long for the joy to begin its quick crumble. the aisles were crowded and the lines long. i came across a few grouchy people. one woman even barked at me to move. i was, apparently, blocking the potatoes. i wanted to tell her to lighten up. i wanted to tell her to be thankful. i wanted to tell her i was making my grandmother's stuffing recipe for dinner in a few days. i don't make it but once a year and i had to think about what i needed. it was special. i wanted to ask her if she'd ever had a grandmother with special recipes. i am pretty sure i would have ended up as mashed potatoes myself had i failed to control my tongue.
i (silently) grabbed my bag of potatoes and moved my cart. but inside i kind of seethed. what's wrong with people? everyone was hustling and bustling about like they would just die if the last can of cranberry sauce was gone. i began to feel slightly anxious myself. was there enough time this week to get everything done? i had rick's family coming. they are easy, but i wanted everything to be nice. though i held the grocery list in my hand, i began to form another mental list of things needing to be done back at home: change sheets, clean bathrooms, bake pies (scratch that...buy pies)... it is so easy to get caught up in the preparations and miss the point. so easy to look at the lists and forget the living. in the back of my mind i was adding to the equation the fact that my kids would be home this week. i love them, but five kids in the kitchen make preparing for anything a little on the crazy side.
i headed to the check out, eager to finally leave this grocery-circus. the man cheerfully bagging my groceries started to talk with me as he carefully placed every item into my bags. item by item by item. it seemed he was taking forever. he would ask me a question and pause, soup can in hand. i had signed my credit card and was ready to leave, but he continued to bag, all the while talking to me. it took everything in me to keep my eager foot from impatiently tapping. finally he finished. the last vegetable was bagged. the man kindly asked if he could help me out to my car. i quickly told him, i was fine and not to worry. i didn't mind loading them myself. "i'm good," i said, as i took the receipt and turned toward the doors. i was thinking of time. i was thinking of speed. all of a sudden i felt like the clock had begun ticking and i had things to get home to. i wanted no small talk with this nice man. no chit chat. no leisurely stroll to my yukon. i wanted expedience. i grabbed my cart and barreled out the door, my sunday heels clicking, well prepared to run over small children and elderly men with my enormous cart. i had things to do. suddenly, i felt just like that mean barking woman on the potato aisle.
but of course you know this isn't the end of my story. just as i was backing out of my parking space, i could see the man who had been bagging my groceries come running out of the store with a bag in his hand. he was looking everywhere--left and right his head turned, like he was searching. immediately, i knew it was me he was looking for. i rolled down my window and he came running to my car. not quite running though, for he hobbled. he was older and he came with a limp.
"miss, (i love that he called me miss and not mam) you forgot your chicken. i was so worried you had left." he said in his thick accent.
"oh, yes, thank you," i replied. "that is mine."
"i thought it might be for your dinner tonight, so i wanted to make sure i found you." he was so genuinely concerned, it caught me off guard.
"yes, it is for tonight. thank you so much." and he handed me the package, starting to walk away.
but just as i was ready to drive off, he turned back. "miss, i also want to wish you a happy, happy thanksgiving."
he patted my door and i drove off.
i wasn't to the end of the parking lot before i burst into tears. i mean, i just lost it. all the hurry and hustle i felt inside that store, just fell away from my hunched up shoulders. what was i thinking? this week...this holiday has nothing to do with meal preparation. it has nothing to do with the turkey thawing or the potatoes to be peeled or the pumpkin pie to be baked. and yet, i had managed to allow myself to get caught up in it all --all the plans and preparations. caught up in the frenzied feelings of my list making and grocery shopping holiday hurry.
i considered parking my suv and walking back into that chaotic store. i considered finding that old man with the limp and the accent and all the time in the world and giving him a hug-- inviting him to dinner. i almost did. i still might. i am home now. the groceries put away. the chicken cooking on the stovetop and i am so glad i met the mean lady near the potatoes...and i am so glad i forgot my chicken at the checkout. i am so thankful this sweet man hunted me down in the parking lot and wished me a happy thanksgiving. of course i want everything nice for this week. of course i want everything wonderful...i want grandmother's stuffing recipe made to perfection...the turkey golden...the mashed potatoes creamy. i want my children smiling and clean and cordial. i want the house tidy and the desserts delicious. but mostly...mostly...mostly...i want to take the time to be thankful.
"a grateful heart is not acquired in a moment, but rather the fruit of a thousand choices." ~ joni earekson tada