By Lindsay Eckert
[friday editor]/Don’t tell Mom I know
— Every year a bountiful cornucopia graces my parents’ kitchen. Unlike the cornucopia — or corny thing or corn cob or, “that basket thing we have to write notes for,” as it’s more commonly referred to by family — seen in Martha Stewart Living overflowing with fruits and gourds, our family’s cornucopia is overflowing with ripped sheets of paper penned with what we’re “thankful” for that year.
However, the notes of gratitude are anything but. It was initiated as a sentimental gesture by my mom when I was a little kid and it has rarely, if ever, been taken seriously. As she raises the oddly-shaped basket in the air every year to groans of family members watching football, playing cards or lost somewhere in a haze of tryptophan she insists, “Guys, it’ll only take a second to write what you’re thankful for, and you’ll be glad you did when you have all the memories to look back on.”
It’s the speech every mom gives, because she’s the mom and she darn well can. It’s also the speech that changes absolutely no one’s mind.
My Pap, who shares a similar sentimental spirit with my mom, quietly leads the way, often with an ornery smirk foreshadowing a funny remark, but also with a tiny tear of sincere gratitude for something that made his life better that year.
Ironically, it’s the speech never spoken that leads the family to the annual trough of thankfulness, “Lets get it over withs,” or “Whatever, I’ll do its,” soon follow and the line of gratitude brings a smile to my mom’s face.
However, as she starts peeling open the notes scribbled with silly pictures, or notes of sarcastic thanks such as my dad’s from last year — “I’m thankful I still have hair, I’m thankful my family still has hair, I’m thankful the world still has hair” — her smile reverts to the realization the only tradition involving the cornucopia is, traditionally, no one takes it seriously.
Year after year of cornucopia jokes, questionable drawings and thankless thanks and you’d think a mom would finally give up. But, she didn’t and last year I witnessed why.
The joke is on us. Every year we all write ridiculous messages, and every year we all end up emptying the cornucopia to read years of messages full of inside jokes, silly sayings from movies we watched as a family or a joke my Pap made that we jotted down and secretly stuffed in the cornucopia.
Every year we’re reminded in 1999 we were once, “Thankful for the wasssuuuppp frogs,” or in 2004 Dad and I were “Thankful for the ice cream Pap dropped.”
Turns out, the seemingly thankless tradition is what I’m most thankful for.