Is it frozen yet?
The pond?
Is it frozen?

A question I would obsessively ask my uncle and cousins every November.
And if I ever watched the news I watched it for the weather.
And if I ever prayed, I prayed most earnestly that water would freeze.
Colder November’s then it seemed.

If there’s one thing I know – I know Thanksgivings as they should be.
A “Norman Rockwell’s” type of Thanksgiving as you would imagine it to be.

A day of skating, feasting and family.

A little boy’s joy of a frozen pond and the possibility of skating and playing hockey all day long.
Getting new skates at the Holiday gas station on Arcade across from the Church.
Driving way out to Lake Elmo. It seemed so far out in the country back then.
Going down to the pond and checking it out right away.
Hurrying to dress warm and get our skates on.
Taking those first steps on the ice.
Knowing I wasn’t the best skater by any means, but would become an “expert” by the end of the day. (Wondering in the back of my mind that for some reason growing up on the East Side I played basketball instead of hockey?! Go figure.)

My cousins – the hockey players they could skate!
We had all the sticks and pucks we needed.
And we played for hours until they called us in for the meal.
We didn’t want to go in, but knew we could come back out right after we ate.
Going inside, getting warmed up.
I remember passing through the kitchen where my dad was carving the turkey. It seemed like a “high honor” bestowed upon him. And as I passed by he’d call to me in a loud whisper and sneak me a choice piece of meat as he took another sample too.

And there we sat at the kids table.
All I can say is that it was “Eucharist” – a meal of true thanksgiving in every bite.
Our appetites had caught up with us from the fresh air and how good it tasted.
And it’s where I learned to drink root beer on Thanksgiving.

Then of course, running back outside to skate some more.
Wondering how the adults could be missing out on such fun and never in our wildest dreams imagine we’d be staying in the house when a frozen pond, sticks and pucks awaited outside.

Everyone skated!
I can see Barney – the great greyhound – standing there watching over us like a great sentinel.
I can even see my sisters coming down with their figure skates.
I hear the scape of skates on the ice and pucks on the sticks.
I see us playing.
I hear us laughing.
If “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” Then I know that God was skating out there on the ice with us. And we were all caught up in God without even knowing it or perhaps in a deeper way we just lived God’s joyful presence simply by enjoying it so much.

And oh my sore knees and tailbone from falling so much.
And how cold my fingers and toes would get – but there was no way I was going inside.
There was even the excitement of possibly falling through the ice in certain spot around the pond because it wasn’t frozen yet. And we’d hear the adults saying – “Be careful over there it’s kind of thin.” But letting us have the adventure of finding out for ourselves.

I knew none of us would go through – too light with happiness and joy – which seemed to at least make me feel like I could skate and glide over anything or escape any trouble on the pond or even in my life. And that’s the thing about that day. I’d lose myself in the joy and pleasure of the day without a care in the world. The trouble might come again tomorrow, but not on this day.

The only thing that would stop us was the darkness.
And then an evening of frivolity would ensue.
Silly games.
“Up Jenkins!”
Ridiculous plays, skits and productions.
Maybe a hayride.
And of course another meal!
Weren’t there even some special Kemps ice cream treats – pumpkin spice novelties?!

And all of them were there. The ones we loved and have now lost. Alive in all their uniqueness. I can still see them and hear them and if I close my eyes, even feel them in some way.

You know what, I kind of feel sorry for the people who never knew thanksgivings like we had. And I’m so grateful that they were mine.

I wish my kids could have known the Thanksgivings I knew.
But perhaps it’s enough to know that I knew them and know them again now if even in my memory. Giving thanks again in the moment for my life then, for my life now, for life itself and for all of their lives too. That we shared, lived and experienced it all together so many years ago. In some way maybe I even appreciate it more now or at least in a deeper way, with the passing of time, knowing how it’s all turned out so far and how precious they were and those days.

And for those still here in this life – To the younger ones – how wonderful to share those special days together. And for the older ones – thank you for all you did for us on those days then. All the work, all the food prep, all the goodness and love. And around that table, wandering through that house, and on that pond, I felt it then and even now.

Meister Eckhart says that, “If the only prayer we ever prayed was Thank You, that would enough.”


Dear God…

Thank you for the magic, the moments, the memories of Thanksgiving days past. I should have dropped to my knees every five minutes then not just because the ice was slippery but to give thanks for it all and the world as it really was.

But most of all…

Thank you God – that the pond was frozen!

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