By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
Carole Townsend

(Not So) Common Sense
Thankfulness is a relative thing
By Carole Townsend

Ah, the glorious week is finally here. I do believe that Thanksgiving week may be my favorite of all fifty-two weeks packed into a year. If not, it runs a close second, and that’s only to Christmas week.

No matter; both of them are filled with family, love, memories, beautiful scents, sights and sounds, and of course, they are filled with food. Yes, food carries with it its own memories calories and fondnesses, doesn’t it?

I’ve always said that God crammed all the big holidays in at the end of the year, shoulder-to-shoulder, for good reason.  It gives us an entire year to recuperate from having spent all that time immersed in our relatives. Oh, we love our family. Of course we do, as I’m sure we all do. But let’s face it. We all live in separate homes for a reason. And too much of a good thing, well, is never a good thing. 

I am fascinated by the phenomenon of family dynamics, so much so that I wrote my first book about that very thing. It’s a humorous book, because I choose to look at most things with humor (I believe it’ll help me live longer, but we’ll see about that). I’m also happy to say that my first book, written nearly five years ago, still enjoys strong sales. Why? Because we all get the humor, that’s why. It’s universal. We all have a crazy Uncle Bob or a gossipy Aunt Sharon.  We all have that cousin who drinks a few too many at every family gathering, and we have that brother who tells off-color jokes at terribly inappropriate times. And we all have mothers, at least the most fortunate of us do. Mothers bring with us our own brand of stress, all delivered with the utmost of love. In other words, we all have family and under stress, we go absolutely crazy.

Thankfulness is relative. Years ago, I felt thankful on Thanksgiving Day if no one’s car caught on fire on the way to dinner at our house, or if no drama exploded just as the dinner over which I slaved was being placed on the table. I felt thankful if my sister showed up on time, with the ingredients for the casserole she promised to bring every year yet somehow never brought them already assembled. I felt thankful if she didn’t bring her dog (which I repeatedly asked her not to do). He wasn’t nearly as “house trained” as she claimed he was. 

And one year, I distinctly remember feeling thankful simply because the cops didn’t show up. My husband and I both have very colorful families, so thankfulness for us in the early days of our marriage meant something quite different than it meant when I was a kid. Still we survived, and believe it or not we still have memories from those years that I wouldn’t trade for anything. They’re ours. That’s what makes memories so special for each of us. They belong to us, and us alone.

Now we have our own family, the one that my husband and I made together. Our children are all grown and have homes of their own. When they are home at the same time (which is altogether too rare these days), it’s such a treat for us. And I think the most wonderful thing of all is seeing them carry on traditions that were created by my husband and me, when they were just little. I love that they look forward to enjoying the same foods and the same rituals, and that those traditions make their holidays special. 

Last year, our middle daughter added a colorful little family member to our ranks, and she’s pure joy. At eighteen months old, she is more aware of her surroundings than she was last year. She loves music and laughter. She loves her aunts and uncles and all of our dogs, And she loves her YaYa and Poppy – grandma and grandpa. A ray of pure light and sunshine, she has ushered in a new level of thankfulness for all of us.

Yesterday, our granddaughter helped me cook several of our traditional dishes. She was in charge of the cinnamon, incidentally. Everything we prepared is a little heavy on the cinnamon and you know what? That’s fine with me. Today, however, cooking did not interest her as much as it did yesterday. She wadded up my decades-old recipes and threw them in the floor, then decided that it was more fun to hand my business cards to our dogs than it was to stir apple pie filling.  That was fine with me too. I simply wiped my hands on my apron, removed it, and cuddled up with her on the couch to read books with her. 

This year, I hope that your Thanksgiving and Christmas are filled with family, love, good food and the stuff of which memories are made. I hope that there are no car fires, burned casseroles, inappropriate jokes or surprise visits from the cops but of there are, I hope you take away some wonderful memories from those events. 

Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. She writes about family, from both a humorous and poignant perspective. Her newest book, MAGNOLIAS, SWEET TEA AND EXHAUST (July 2014, Skyhorse Publishing) takes a look at NASCAR from a Southern suburban mom’s perspective. She is currently writing her fourth book. Carole has appeared on local and national news and talk shows, including CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. When not writing, she travels throughout the region, speaking to various civic and literary groups, and advocating for the health and well-being of the family, particularly women and children. For more information, visit www.caroletownsend.com.