Reflections at Thanksgiving time


"There's always a lot to be thankful for if you take the time to look for it.  For example, I'm sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don't hurt."

That thought isn't original with me, but I wish it were.  I read it last week in one of those e-mail forwards that get circulated back and forth across the country.

But nevertheless it is time for thanksgiving.  "I am thankful for small mercies," Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote.  "I compared notes with one of my friends who expects everything of the universe and is disappointed when anything is less than the best, and I found that I begin at the other extreme, expecting nothing, and am always full of thanks for moderate goods."

For what they're worth, these are some of the things that make me smile and for which I am grateful at Thanksgiving time and throughout the year:

Book stores . . . the first cup of coffee in the morning . . . distant train whistles . . . peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches . . . the sun streaming through stained-glass windows of a church . . . a giant cranberry muffin at a Perkins restaurant . . . Lake Oahe when it is full to the brim . . . wind chimes . . . the scent of rain in the air . . . the grand march at a high school prom . . . Hamburger Helper . . . the hometown paper arriving in the mail . . . a Twins game on the radio, on TV or in person . . . caramel rolls fresh from the oven . . . "The Polar Express" . . . the USD band marching down the street on the way to the Dome on game day . . . a steaming bowl of chili topped with shredded cheese and corn curls . . . icicle lights hanging from the eaves . . . the music of Michael W. Smith's Christmas CDs . . . Duke basketball . . . driving through the USD campus on green lights when the students aren't trying to cross Cherry Street . . . thick Sunday newspapers . . . deviled eggs . . . riding the Metro into downtown Minneapolis . . . my team's goalkeeper thwarting a penalty kick in soccer . . . the aroma of dinner cooking in the crockpot when I get home from church.

The thunder and mist rising from the falls at Falls Park . . . "Prairie Home Companion" on the radio or live at the Fitzgerald Theatre . . . Christmas letters . . . the Vikings . . . the view coming down the hill into Custer with the lighted "CUSTER" sign high on the mountain straight ahead . . . the music of "Fiddler on the Roof" and the memories it revives . . . the words "winter storm watch" on the weather forecast (unless I have travel plans) . . . restaurants where five different games are playing on the TV screens .. . hot apple cider . . . reruns of the old Carol Burnett variety show . . . a surprise e-mail from a long-lost friend . . . holiday decorations on the light poles . . . the College World Series . . . the only true must-see TV—ESPN's "SportsCenter" . . . board games around the dining room table at holiday time . . . the first glimpse of the roof of the DakotaDome when nearing Vermillion . . . fudge . . . mighty church pipe organs . . . semifinal night at a state basketball tournament . . . the newest Michael Buble CD . . . my first daughter-in-law and the people in her family . . . "Brothers and Sisters."

Still-warm pumpkin pie with Cool Whip . . . the music of "Les Miserables" . . . discovering the flowers have blossomed . . . the spectacle of the state track meet . . . the lights of Rapid City from the top of the Wasta hill after a long cross-state drive . . . big-band music . . . a baseball player stealing home . . . a wave from a passing driver . . . a college campus in the fall . . . seeing what excellent mothers my daughters are and what loving uncles their brothers are . . . the downtown trolley in Sioux Falls . . . "White Collar" . . . the students in the USD opera class . . . Colt McCoy to Jordan Shipley for a Longhorn touchdown . . . the downstream view of the Missouri from atop Oahe Dam . . . the aroma of bread baking in the oven . . . Storybook Island at Christmastime . . . loose change in the bottom of the washer or beneath the driver's seat . . . class reunions . . . homecoming parades . . . the soaring voices of the men of Il Divo . . . crossing a stateline . . . old yearbooks . . . ambrosia salad . . . a football Saturday at Nebraska . . . the choir processing down the aisle during the opening hymn . . . a box of frosted cookies from Granny Franny's oven.

The rush of spotting a car with a license plate from my home county . . . pumpkin bread . . . Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau . . . graduation receptions . . . "Remember the Titans" . . . downtown Rochester with its shops, restaurants and skyscraper hospitals . . . doughnuts with maple frosting from Wall Drug . . . Olivia, Dylan and Audrey, the treasures of my life, the grandkids who make every day worth getting up for, even though they are hundreds of miles away . . . the bells, whip cracks and horse whinnies that accompany "Sleigh Ride" . . . the new football stadium at Augustana . . . the welcome I get from Oliver (German shepherd) and Winnie (black Lab) after being away from them for several months . . . a ride on the 1880 Train . . . the ability to keep track of old friends' lives on Facebook . . . church choirs . . . the Black Hills Playhouse . . . the endless sunset seen from the central South Dakota prairie . . . Handel's "Messiah" . . . a new Nicholas Sparks book . . . sweet potatoes smothered in marshmallows . . . a warm summer night at the ballpark . . . the people and dogs you meet at the dog park . . . a community theater's summer musical.

The lyrics of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and the memories of long-past Christmases in Onida and Pierre they invoke . . . my son-in-law, the best possible dad my granddaughters could have . . . hearing one's governor or congressman call you by name (only in South Dakota!) . . . the view from Vermillion of the Nebraska river bluffs three miles away . . . summer band concerts in the park . . . discovering a checkbook error in my favor . . . a phone call from one of the kids that they arrived there safely . . . recollections of Thanksgivings gone by . . . the USD Chamber Singers . . . waking up on Sunday mornings to hear the exhilarating trumpet introduction to Charles Osgood's "Sunday Morning" show . . . Easter Sunday mornings . . . a Tom Brady-to-Randy Moss bomb . . . Christmas carols reverberating through the state Capitol . . . the courthouse at the head of Main Street in my hometown . . . the prospect of seeing a Twins game at Target Field . . . growing old but retaining the ability to remember life's golden moments – Mom and Dad, Grandma Maggie, and the childhood years, college, students I've taught, raising a family, jobs I've loved, places I've been, friends I've made, dreams and hopes for a few more good years.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

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