George Stahl: What I am thankful for

By George Stahl
Special to the Sun

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. No kidding Captain Obvious, you say. Well, while you are eating your turkey, mashed potatoes, yams and gravy, and all of those other delicious secret family recipe prepared side dishes, you could also be do something just a little different.

Some families have gotten into the tradition of asking everyone at the table to share why they feel thankful, or what they are thankful for on this day. What do they have a heartfelt desire to express to their family and friends? For some of you, this could be a little awkward, but someone is insisting that we take our turn. You feel like saying that you would be very thankful that if next year, we don’t do this exercise, but those are not the words that come out of our mouth. No one else notices, but every year we all say we are thankful for the same things, and quickly pass the turn to the person next to us.

This year could be different. This year you could be prepared. You can use your turn to say something that will probably ensure that you get skipped over next year. “I am thankful for being alive when something extraordinary happened in the space between us and our neighbor, Mars,” you say and pause for the gasp. There will be a gasp, at least from one of the aunts, or sister in laws who helped prepare the food. Most of the others are not even listening to you, they are too busy stressing over what they are going to say, “It was 55 years ago today that a spacecraft called Mariner 4 was launched into space, and eight months later, it was sending pictures of Mars back to Earth,” now it is getting a little uneasy in the room. What does this have to with Thanksgiving? You feel that questions come at you like little poison darts from everyone. Great, now they are listening to you. Why? “I am thankful for being a part of what will eventually lead to a second Thanksgiving. When the wanderers of the earth meet the wanderers of other worlds and come together as we are, over a meal and fellowship,” you conclude your expulsion speech and pass the baton.

The usual well wishes and gratitude for life, family, friends, a job, a new kid, and the much needed rain, come as the mantle is passed until it finishes with the head of the table saying he is grateful; for all of you and for surviving another year to be with you. You notice, no one said anything close to what you did, and no one, no one, mentioned what you said.
After he says, “Ok let’s eat. Who wants a drumstick?” He glares at you, and you know you will never have to say a thankful thing again. You have won your freedom. Your sanity may be in question, and whether or not you had too much eggnog before dinner, but as you look around the table, others seem to be looking back at you differently. Not glaring, but smiling, winking and nodding. ‘How much eggnog did they have?’ you ask yourself.

“I think you were right on with that thanks you gave,” one of them says. Some of the others agree. ‘Exactly. A Thanksgiving on Mars. Why not?’ ‘Maybe they, would even come to us. Pilgrims form the Red Planet.’ ‘Wait a minute though. If they come here like the Mayflower people did way back in the day, what would that make us?’ ‘Yeah, remember what happened after the visitors had dinner with, the Indians?’

‘A War of the Worlds Thanksgiving when Mars attacks and we get invaded by my favorite Martian.’ ‘That makes your wish and thanks a little different, doesn’t it?’ All of these are directed to you, and now you are wishing you hadn’t tried so hard to be excluded. You look at the man at the head of the table and he is grinning from ear to ear, knowing that what you wanted is what you got, just not in the way you expected. You will never have to be a part of that tradition again. But not this way. You say to yourself, now, they won’t even want me at the table. What have I done? As you are having these thoughts, you see a bright white light coming through the dining room window. There is a knock at the front door. “Billy, open the door for our new guests,” the man says. A little boy, jumps up and runs to the door. He opens it, and the light is brighter. It fills the house now, and a shadow comes from the center of it walking through the door. You squirm in your chair, and you look at the shadow closer. Just as it appears in the living room…you hear a buzzing sound. You open your eyes, and reach for the alarm. Your bedroom is dark, no bright light, no diner table, and no man at the head of it. You sigh, and whisper, ‘Ahh, thank you.’

Of course, you know it was just a dream, but it does upset your plan for tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving all, no matter who you are…or where you may be.