Maybe you have a tradition like this: It’s Thanksgiving and the senior family member present (SFMP) gravely invokes the rite of gratitude. One by one, as you sit around the table (hopefully after the meal, but undoubtedly during the game), family members recite something they are thankful for.
In my early years, I tried several schemes such as sitting to the immediate left of the SFMP to ensure being called on first. If you’re dead last, nobody will be paying attention by then. An early slot means you can trot out stunningly obvious platitudes without seeming repetitive.
“I’m thankful for my family, my stupid sisters, the food and especially for Grandpa/Grandma,” you disingenuously burble, scoring brownie points close to Christmas with the one source likely to get you that really expensive present you won’t get from anyone else.
Half-lidded glares from those further down the list bounce off your smug sense of accomplishment. At the least, you won’t be grasping for straws such as “world peace” or “safe travel” or (gag) “your parents.” Like they would buy that pander anyway.
But we soon outgrow this childishness and instead rig the whole process by whispering to the SFMP you’d like to go first because you have something really special to share. Once again, you outflank cousins who later whine, “John took what I was going to say!”
You can also reach a point where the average age of the gathering prompts the exercise to become a little umm … medical. “I’m thankful the spleen medications have lowered my red count” or “I’m thankful the lesions on my foot are finally healing.” While doubtlessly sincere, you find yourself surreptitiously poking your abdomen, wondering if your spleen (whatever that is) is hanging in there.
I have found economic gratitude can be a showstopper and can often completely confound whoever follows you. For example, I once earnestly expressed my gratitude the New York Stock Exchange price-earnings ratio was dropping back to realistic territory. Coupled with my thanks for a stronger yuan, it provoked a solid two minutes of bewildered silence after my turn.
In case you are way down the lineup this year, keep this list of thankworthy stuff tucked up your shirtsleeve:
- Australian and New Zealand winemakers. Those wonderfully rational people use screw caps on all of their excellent vintages, instead of being cork dorks.
- Pet health insurance. Sure, you rolled your eyes the first time you heard about it, but then you got the bill for your daughter’s dachshund’s braces.
- The “unfollow” option on Facebook. None of the social danger of “unfriending” but all of the benefits.
- The Chinese. All 1.3 billion of them. There is no market or farm problem that cannot be conceivably connected to and blamed on them. The ultimate argument-ender, impossible to refute, because they are like, inscrutable.
- Google. As soon as the brain implants are ready, we’ll all have a knowledge hoard even closer at hand—or at least “closer at brain.” All of those losers who actually learned stuff are looking pretty silly right now. Besides, look around at your family. Those still waiting their turns are googling for gratitude winners right now.
- Long-range weather forecasts. It might be the last truly original source of humor left.
- Amazon reader comments. Never write another book report.
- Quantitative easing. Nobody will know what this is, even if your uncle is on the Federal Open Market Committee. Many will link it vaguely to digestive relief.
- Concealed carry. Suddenly, there will be plenty of room for you on the couch front and center during the game.
I hope this de-stresses Thanksgiving for some of you. Always remember, “You can’t spell gratitude without a lot of attitude.”