It was in the classrooms of P.S. 58 in Ozone Park, Queens, New York, that I remember learning about Thanksgiving. I recall making pilgrim hats with paper buckles, tracing my hand and out stretched fingers, then coloring my fingers as tail feathers and the outline of my thumb as a turkey's head, and hearing the story of how after a hard winter and summer, the fall crops produced a good harvest and the pilgrims invited their Indian friends to a feast. There was something about thanking God in there somewhere. I remember Thanksgiving not as a religious holiday but a big dinner day that signaled that Christmas was going to come in less than a month. Oh, I also remember that with our milk each day in November we had a cookie shaped like a turkey and I always ate the head first. When you're in elementary school, food, hats and Christmas coming were the most important things to pay attention to.

Growing older changes one's perspective. It was after I had a family that I paid attention to a great lesson of Thanksgiving. Now as everyone gathers at Aunt Patty's house (it's always her house even though I'm married to Aunt Patty and it's my house as well), it became obvious that for us it's the family that we are thankful for. Yes, it's loud, animated activities, food available for supper and then grazing for the rest of the weekend, and strategy sessions for next day's surgical capture of those Black Friday gifts.

It's the time as we stand around the table, holding hands and expressing thanks to God for all that He's given us that has become the essence of Thanksgiving for us. It is no longer "something about thanking God in there somewhere," that is the focus of the day and the season.

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Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours.

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