I thank you
Thanksgiving leaves scatter across our table, as though the Wind has carried them in a flying whirl through the windows, twisting them across the grass and through the air to land where we gather to give thanks. Adam walks to the table, turning first to reach for a pencil. I feel what he is about to do before he does it, and still I freeze where I stand, gathering up the gift.
For a moment, I wonder if he’s simply doing early what he knows I will ask him to do later, getting it out of the way so as not to disturb his routine. But this is not written on any schedule; It isn’t part of any list I’ve made for him. I watch the way Adam flips a leaf to its blank side, the way he bends over it, resting an elbow against the table, the way he rubs two of his fingers against his temple. The pencil jiggles, jutting out in an odd angle away from his head, clenched in three fingers. And then, he shifts his focus to the leaf and starts to write. He bites his lower lip with his teeth, leaning into the careful letters. For Adam, it’s always a trick to fill the space–he believes in filling–without crowding his words so much that the strokes land on top of each other. He fills my life.
He’s already been prowling through the kitchen hungry, lifting lids, and I expect to find something immediate and basic written large and gray on the underside of that leaf, something easy, enough to be considered complete. And for me, to see him give thanks for those things I often take for granted is itself a gift. But I wait, standing in the kitchen holding Zoe’s math homework in my hand. Adam has initiated this without any nudge from me, without relying on the safety of my prompting, and I want to let him finish without intrusion. Giving thanks should be a way of living, an I-get-to-give grace, not a box checked. Zoe stands at my elbow, waiting, and I pull my attention back to the page, the variables, her question. Riley sits at the bar, absorbed in some algebraic quagmire involving root signs, murmuring to herself about simplifying. Riley does all of her homework out loud, and I can’t help but think that the habit is built as much on gratitude for the gift of speech as it is on her need to smooth out cognitive processing. I don’t know, but I think maybe she has memories of the years when she struggled out of silence.
When Adam finishes writing, he gently pushes the leaf into the orange-gold pile of our collected thanks and spins away from the table, scripting some line of dialogue from a soccer game he likes to play on the Xbox. All that’s left now is the keeper, he says, until I stop him mid-spin and pull him into an embrace. Whatever he’s written will be my treasure, and all that’s left now is the keeping, the counting of it. “What are you scripting about?” I ask him, and he leans back to see my face and smiles. You caught me, his expression says. He fumbles for the word, and finally simply says, “Soccer.” I already knew but wanted him to tell me.
“No scripting,” I say, grinning. “Talk to me—what are you doing?”
“No talking. Talking is finished,” Adam says. “May I have Mommy fixing your supper, please.”
“You can help me fix supper.” I ruffle his hair with my hand, and I watch his expression change. He likes to cook, but hadn’t intended to ask his way into that opportunity. “But first—what were you doing?” I gesture toward the table. He looks at me—a silent beat and then another–and then walks back to the table to pick up the leaf. He puts it in my hand, turning it over so that I can what he’s carefully written:
I thank you for my family.
He’s written not his usual one-word immediate thing, not what he’s having for supper, but this: I thank you for my family. And within Adam’s expression of thanksgiving I find a thousand more of my own—that gratitude interrupted him; that he’s written a full sentence; that he did this without being compelled; that it is his own original thought. I give thanks, and the leaf trembles in my hand. Oh let me be interrupted by simple, profound gratitude. I give thanks for the way he’s written: It is a sentiment spinning wildly on the Wind to God—I thank you. So he struggles for words, but not for an anchor. I thank you that you hold him so close—my offering rushes, twisting, gusting; I thank you that you let me see him grow.
“This is wonderful,” I say to Adam, reaching up to squeeze his arm. “I like this.”
“Yes,” he says simply, grinning. And I see in his eyes what family means to him—that we are the ones who appreciate what he can give without disparaging his limitations; the ones who remain steadfastly his through every season. We are the ones who love him because, and the ones who love him anyway. Yes—that strength wraps and roots and shields. It remains—it is, it was, it will be. I look down at Adam’s leaf in my palm, seeing suddenly beyond his sentence to the way the gift reflects the God who gives it. And I echo Adam’s six word story, giving thanks for stalwart Love that just is:
I thank you for my family.
Happy Thanksgiving, from our family to yours. May God’s grace to you abound in more and more thanksgiving.