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What I celebrate on Thanksgiving

| Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Sure, the country isn't doing so well at the moment, but there are still plenty of reasons to be thankful this Thanksgiving.

I sit at the “big people's table” now, just to the left of my father. It took me years to earn that coveted spot, and for that, I am thankful.

Everyone in my family is healthy this year. My parents are 80 and 77, and doing well, and for that, I am surely thankful.

This will be my 51st Thanksgiving. I've celebrated most of them at my parents' house, with various relatives, my sisters and their children and grandchildren.

My father fell head-over-heels with my mother the first time he met her. He was a football star at Carrick High School and she was a cheerleader.

We marvel over their wedding pictures. My dad's hair was thick and black. My mother was stunning. As a couple, they looked like two actors in a 1957 Hollywood production.

They had no idea that day that their union would produce six children, 17 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

This is what I celebrate on Thanksgiving.

For so much of the year, we focus on what is not right. To be sure, lots of things are not right in our country, and civilized debate is needed to get us back on the right path.

I worry about spending and debt and dismal economic growth that is not producing enough wealth to pay our bills.

I worry about our rapidly growing government and the basic freedoms it is taking away. As the unintended consequences of ObamaCare rear their ugly heads, I am being joined in that worry by many others.

But that is not what Thanksgiving is about. It is a day to set politics aside. It is a day to remember what we have done right.

Bill Bryson, one of my favorite authors, points out that Thanksgiving is still one of the least commercial holidays we have.

Sure, there are ads for turkey and cranberry sauce. Sure, more retail stories are opening their doors on Thanksgiving night, which is regrettable.

But then again, there are no Thanksgiving greeting cards that have to be sent, no gifts that have to be exchanged. For most, Thanksgiving is still a simple day when you enjoy a traditional feast with your family.

One of my favorite parts of the day is when my father, at the head of our three or four tables, says grace.

My father, who has never enjoyed speaking publicly, stumbles through the words every year, but they still hold a great deal of meaning to me.

The first Thanksgiving was about thanking God for a plentiful harvest. That is the traditional meaning of the day.

As the American experiment produced tremendous results — as our free republic produced unimaginable wealth — Thanksgiving took on a whole new meaning.

Over many years, millions have flocked to our shores, asking for nothing but the freedom to pursue their own happiness.

This is what I celebrate still on Thanksgiving.

I love the commotion of the day. My father has to rent a couple of tables and several folding chairs to accommodate our family.

Everyone shows up with a plate of some kind — my new job is to make the second turkey and bring that with me — to contribute to the celebration.

After my father says grace, we toast loved ones who have passed. We pay tribute to Grandma and Nanny, Aunt Jane, Uncle Mike and Uncle Jimmy. We share humorous toasts and laugh out loud.

And then we dig into our feast.

We are thankful because we are together — because we know that everything we really need in life can be found sitting next to us at our Thanksgiving table.

Tom Purcell, a freelance writer, lives in Library. Visit him on the web at TomPurcell.com. E-mail him at: Tom@TomPurcell.com

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