'Twas the night before Thanksgiving

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By David Whitlock


I’ll take the night before Thanksgiving over Christmas Eve any year. Christmas Eve is a tired ol’day, worn out by the flurry of activity preceding it, and by the time it arrives, usually too soon, it’s all out of breath as it plops its burden of stress and strain---last minute shopping, checklists, nagging questions (Did I get her the right gift? Will it fit him? Should I have just given the kids money and been done with it?) ---at your doorstep.
But the night before Thanksgiving is different. At least it is for me. It’s tucked in between Halloween and Christmas, and if you’re not careful, you’ll miss it. While the world rushes to Christmas, Thanksgiving just sits there, calmly inviting whosoever will to come and visit a while.
Some families get together the night before Thanksgiving, and that in itself is something of a miracle. When they do, the focus is usually more on each other than in exchanging gifts.
My family would usually travel to my mom’s side of the family for Thanksgiving. Grandmother’s house was small, simple and plain. By the time we arrived from a three-hour trip, it was well nigh impossible to corral my three brothers and me. But somehow they did, and we even liked it. In that little house almost on the prairie in Glencoe, Okla., we visited with each other.
And I got to know my grandmother that way.
Soon we would pile in the car, Grandmother with us, and drive to Aunt Dee’s and Uncle Leo’s house where we would stay the night.  Maybe it was because I had just been to Grandmother’s, but their home seemed enormous to me. It allowed plenty of room for roaming, and its hidden nooks, which seemed to me expressly made for hiding, invited us boys into them only so we could leap out of them, scaring unsuspecting victims.  At some point in all the jumping and running and hollering and hiding, Uncle Leo’s booming base voice would bellow, “Time for dinner,” and like hungry bear cubs running to their den, we would dash to the table.
And then the calm, allowing space for conversation.
And I got to know my aunt and uncle and cousins that way.
I hope we haven’t forgotten the night before Thanksgiving, because it just might be the best preparation for Thanksgiving Day. If we forget it, it’s because we’ve lost our sense of thankfulness; it’s because we’ve become consumers and receivers---getting, receiving, leaving, exiting: “See ya next year,” we wave, rushing, with thoughts of specials on “Black Friday,” toward another commercial Christmas.
Before you bypass the night before Thanksgiving, try pausing and enjoying it, even if just for a little while. That’s what I plan to do. Hopefully, it will set me on the path to being more thankful.
So, I’m going to step outside, stare into the night sky, and if the stars are out, I’m going to smile as they twinkle back at me. Then I’m going to step inside and give thanks for my family, each one of them.
 Then I’m going to call some family members who live far away and thank them for being who they are.
And as I drift off to sleep the night before Thanksgiving, I’m going to give thanks for a God who cares.
And waking to Thanksgiving Day, I’m going to give thanks for the smell of hot coffee brewing, for the glowing sunrise that chases away the early morning fog, for the blue sky or gentle pitter patter of rain, for the turkey and dressing with all the trimmings, for the quiet glow of the setting sun, for the twitter of birds preparing for rest, and for the cycle of life---even for all its spins, and turns, and starts, and stops.
And then, the night before Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving Day will be history once again.
But if we live it right, “thanks giving” can become a way of life, making each moment a gift in the most wonderful time of any year.
Contact David B.Whitlock, Ph.D., at drdavid@davidbwhitlock.com or visit his website, www.davidbwhitlock.com.