Season of Thanks

The trees are barer, the air is colder. I rake the last dry leaves and pine needles from the lawn, but a few more strays greet me after a rush of November wind. Fall is ending, and the Season of Thanks begins.

I am thankful to be done raking, but I am not finished yet. In a reversal of spring- cleaning I drag things in. Yard furniture, plastic pools, and fragile flower bulbs; just like a squirrel burying nuts, I stow it all away in the garage. And like the squirrel, I often have trouble locating it all in the spring. When my outdoor projects finally yield to the changing weather, I am drawn indoors, to ready our nest for the winter.

Inside, a few things need to be cleaned out and thrown away. The season also brings the return to school, and this year, my daughter entered first grade. As I do every fall, I thin out her collection of projects and creative works, to make room for new arrivals. Each month has a file, my one successful effort at organization. It is a happy/sad moment as the scribbles of a toddler make room for products of a growing child’s creativity.

I reach the November file and find Thanksgiving projects. I smile at countless turkeys made with her handprints -each year the turkey is larger and more detailed. There are crayon pictures and finger paintings, accompanied by words of thanks. In the baby and toddler years, caring daycare teachers supplied the ideas and words she could not express. I am thankful for ... is followed by my family or my friends or my house. Gradually, her primitive attempts at writing replace adult words, but the central ideas remain. Like most children, she is thankful for simple things-her home, her family, and her friends. (It doesn't change much when we grow up, does it?)

I also find photographs I took last year, at the kindergarten Thanksgiving pageant. I first heard the Plymouth Rock story in elementary school (I won't say how long ago that was!) It is still quite a story-especially when enacted by a bunch of cute kindergartners, who cross the ocean in a big cardboard boat and are greeted by Native Americans dressed in brown-paper-sack dresses and construction-paper headdresses. I love this story because it so effectively teaches our children about gratitude, sharing, and working together.

One thing is missing in my daughter's projects- thankfulness for her country. We do not always fly the flag when we should, and I haven't taught her much about it. Brief explanations of our country's history follow 4th of July festivities, but I am rusty as to details. Recently, on the way to school, she surprised me by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Thank God for school, because I never would have remembered to teach it to her! We pray each night before bed, but didn't include freedom in our list of things to be thankful for. Now we do.

The events of this September 11 stirred a new feeling in the United States that extends to teachers, parents and children, a feeling of patriotism. In addition to new bedtime prayers, a small American flag now has a place on our front porch. I bought a children's book of American history, and we are reading it together. I expect that this year my daughter's words of thanks will include I am Thankful for My Country. I know that mine will.

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