We are sitting here waiting for the Boston branch of the family to arrive Thanksgiving Day -- like so many other American families waiting for the kids and grandkids to appear. The paper is full of Heartwarming Stories about this day set aside to be thankful. Like that of the eighth-grader in Opelousas, La., who collected more than 2,000 pounds of food to be distributed to poor families over the holiday season.
Abraham Lincoln had the right idea as he looked around at the ruin of a Union he had sworn to preserve and those out to destroy it: Defy them! Giving thanks is a sure way to do that, and that's just what he did: by giving thanks for the bountiful harvest that war-torn year.
We also hear other kinds of stories on Thanksgiving, for the heavy air is full of them: stories of brutal husbands who lock the wife and kids out of the house on this day of all days. Stories of couples planning to divorce -- with their parents' blessings, or at least grudging consent. There is the usual news of crime and its rampages. Satan never seems to take a day off but still walks to and fro in the land, seeing what trouble he can stir. Then there are the stories we hear of sickness and deaths since last Thanksgiving. Time hangs heavy.
It isn't even Christmas, yet the Scrooges already begin to come out, the sad sacks who have nothing better to say on this holiday or any other except "Bah, Humbug!" My wife, Brooke, has swept and cleaned and scrubbed and polished every surface to a shine in anticipation of my pious family's arrival after their long day's journey from Boston, shlepping enough kosher food along to sustain themselves during their visit here. And so we wait. And wait for them to appear. Like the Prodigal Son after many a misadventure, or maybe just for Godot.
My physical therapist tells me I need to keep moving, and so I do, complete with my ever faithful walker, which doubles as a seat if I need one. I set out into another beautiful Arkansas evening that turns out to be my favorite kind: overcast with a hint of rain. Promise is everywhere. I think of my big sister, chipper as ever in her 90s. And envy her disposition, so much like my all-American father's. He may have gone broke time and again, but never thought of himself as poor. Something good was always going to come up, and sure enough it did.
The camellia bush in the front yard, oblivious to the season, is blooming like crazy again. As if He were saying, My will be done, not your fearful mood reflected in My creation. Soon my anxieties are shuffled off. I even get to exchange a few words with a neighbor in mamaloshen, mother tongue and mother wit Yiddish, before turning around and heading back home. To wait. And wait.
How empty and echoing the house seems. How solitary. And then ... they're here! They've called from the airport just off the plane. Danged airlines, you can't count on them. Sure enough, this flight was right on time. And we are transported from darkness unto light.
Then they are upon us. The whole house creaks with a joyful noise as they unload and move in. It grows dark outside, but inside all is light. My, how the kids have grown. Soon their cousins will be over to add to the welcome tumult. My grandson and his father talk about the rules for letting kosher food thaw. My granddaughter tells me about her pre-bas mitzvah classes in Boston. As usual the women are providing the food and drink, the life and love and leveling sense. Their long day's journey -- and ours -- is over at last.
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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.