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Faces of Thanksgiving (11/21/2004)
By Janet Lewis Burns

How many ways are there to say "THANKS?" Babies can't utter it, but one just knows by a tender gaze, a "goo goo," outstretched arms, and even a comical spatter of lunch in the kisser. Thanks from a babe in arms is felt through a contended cuddle. Sweet!

"But I wear my own kind of hat," Merle Haggard croons, reminding me that one of the first things I begged for wasn't typical for a little girl. I begged for a horse and a get-up like Annie Oakley. The best we could do was brown rubber cowgirl boots and a Davy Crockett coonskin cap. I packed a mean six-shooter, that ripped off rolls of red, acrid smelling bang-bangs! My own "friend Flicka" was never to be.

As kids, most are taught to say "thank you," regardless of true feelings. I think it's referred to as "Minnesota nice." For children of the former Pepsi generation, "thank you" pertained to a set of Lincoln Logs, the doggie in the window, or a trip to the zoo with Uncle Buck. Teen girls were always in a state of "I could just die!" They whined for seamed nylons, pop beads, lily of the valley cologne, and movie magazines.

We always knew when the "NO" meant no years back...and had an inborn, unselfish understanding of when not to even ask.

A teen may pray to beat his or her best time during the track meet. That bent and limping old geezer, who used to scare little kids by making disgusting guttural noises from behind the hedge, is merely thankful for another day in his own home. He totters to his mailbox, his lonely heart pounding for another letdown.

The young wife is so relieved that the sun is shining nicely for her deck party, as the farmer thanks his lucky stars, and a patient banker, that his corn crop is finally getting a good dose of needed heat.

I remember jumping up and down, and giddily showering Mom and Dad with cheek pecks, belly hugs, and other outrageous antics, for granting permission to go with the high school gang to my initial polka dance out at Wyattville on Saturday night. These days, I have a more practical urge to be grateful I'm not going blind.

I'm back at my computer, after attending an investiture and rededication of Lewiston Girl Scouts. The rambunctious children and clamor of activity brought back memories. My energetic daughter Kelly is a scout leader, as I once was. Alyssa, eight, has no inhibitions about running to Grandma with open arms, beaming from ear to ear.

That remote distance of Alyssa's growing away from us is beginning to close in...I got a glimpse of it again tonight, her glowing maturity and the formidable possibilities that will draw her out. Burrowed in a family's solid bonding and crafted memories there lingers a propensity for tragedy and heartache that one can't wish away.

One so loving...so loved...the risks...unpredictability. Grandparents keep vigil in the shadows of a manipulative world...lips moving with hushed petitions.

I've met some astounding individuals, those who have stories about their illness making them a better person. I couldn't imagine! Having known heart wrenching despair and suffering, one can, in turn, experience a heightened level of enjoyment and well-being, in its time.

I'm beginning to catch on. For some, happiness is freedom, a turning away from, the source of their pain. Happiness is in the illness cured, a courageous acceptance, sharing faith with others.

Asking for help can take more spunk than to do it yourself. But then you begin to see the twinkle in the eyes and pleasure on others' faces, because they're glad to be of help. One positive way to deal with personal illness or disease is to dare to enter the cave of another's darkness, to be the cherry light that fills vacant, dismal hours.

Let your smile be seen...a thanksgiving face for all seasons. Tip your own kind of hat! Make others thankful to know you. 


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