I am not a cynical person. At least I don’t think I am. Still, I have to admit I sometimes wince at the motivational posters ubiquitous in modern day schools. (We used to adorn classroom walls with portraits of Washington and Lincoln, inspiring through their edifying lives. Now, we slap a few words above a bleary field of flowers and call it good. Hmmm, maybe I am cynical.)
Having said that, occasionally I do notice one that speaks to me. GBR Principal Chris Gubbrud, as caring a fellow as you are ever likely to meet, has one on a bookshelf that reads: “Every time you find some humor in a difficult situation, you win.”
Difficult situation, huh? Yeah, I’ve got a difficult situation for you: the ongoing pandemic. We are struggling to keep schools open and hold our regular activities while keeping everyone in them healthy and safe. I don’t get to see much of my grandchildren for very good but still infuriating reasons. Basically every time I start walking out of my office or house I have to turn around again and make sure my mask is on and fitting well. I haven’t seen my nonagenarian great-aunt seemly, since she was an octogenarian. I missed every Halloween activity there is with my grandkids. And now both Thanksgiving and Christmas as family holidays are imperiled as well.
Now I realize that many people have it much worse, that others have experienced very tough realities, even tragedies, during the pandemic. But this is moving past inconvenient, lapping disappointing and is now well into maddening.
But I wonder if the answer to this is in that little elementary principal office-bound adage. Find some humor, find some joy and you win.
Recently, noting the beautiful weather predicted for the rest of the week and lamenting the likely extended-family-less Thanksgiving looming in just three weeks, my oldest daughter decided that there was no reason not to move Thanksgiving dinner ahead on the calendar and behind the house, into the backyard, that is. Which is precisely what she did. Thus, last Thursday, My wife and I, along with one of my sons, home for a brief visit, traveled to her home and plopped down on lawn furniture to turkey, potatoes — sweet and mashed — harvest vegetables and apple crisp. After the blessing and witnessed by four jack-o-lanterns still holding out from Hallowe’en less than a week in the past, we tucked-in to our Thanksgiving feast. Afterwards, grandchildren gamboled amid the grassy, leaf-strewn yard as darkness fell and temperatures slowly ebbed toward a chill.
It was not a perfect Thanksgiving celebration. Two of my other children and their families were absent. The games we played required a distance that felt artificial and intrusive. The 1-year-old, Seth, should have been embraced and cuddled and perhaps even thrown into the air a bit and, though he cannot “know” what he is missing, I do wonder if he feels the lack all the same. Plus there was no pumpkin pie (and yes, I’ve already been told that if I wanted it, I could have brought it.)
But it was a Thanksgiving I don’t think I’ll ever forget. The Thanksgivings of my childhood were wonderful, filled with food and treats of every kind and populated by people I miss more with every passing year. But they also merge together in the recalling. I can’t so much remember any one of them so much as I aggregate and venerate them as if they were a single event.
Not this year’s Nov. 5 Thanksgiving. This Thanksgiving I will remember. I will remember not just because it was memorable. Not just because it was different. Rather I will remember it because it brought joy.
And in that joy, we won.