As a young mother, I did not understand how hungry my children would be for tradition and ritual. That particularly where holidays were concerned, there is no such thing as a singular event. Thus, many accidental traditions were born, which I supposed is the genesis of every tradition.
The thankful tree came about on a rainy thanksgiving week, a week where the children were weighed down by boredom of being more housebound than usual, and I was weighed down by the everyday exhaustion and insecurity, as well as the melancholy of missing family on a holiday. It was an activity! Designed to occupy children and remediate my feelings of parental inadequacy. We were going to be thankful! Creatively!
That year the thankful tree involved a walk to collect leaves (mostly because I questioned my ability to accurately draw and cut out leaves), a lot of tracing and cutting with blunt tip scissors, and because spelling or even writing was not anyone’s strong suit at that age, I wrote the thankful items on each leaf as they were called out. At the end of all the effort, I was delighted by a colorful, messy, touching and accidentally hilarious thankful tree. In addition to the usual suspects of Love, Family, Friends, Laughter, Home, Health yadda yadda yadda, there were also more pragmatic entires like Toilets, which was so universally admired that it showed up on many subsequent trees.
I hung up the tree and it stayed up until the poster board started to curl and I rolled it up and put it with all the other artwork we couldn’t figure out what to do with in the garage. And then the next year rolled around and to my surprise everyone wanted to do the thankful tree again.
Now, ten plus years later, the tradition has evolved. We no longer collect leaves. The gratitude has become both more thoughtful and more profane (everything is allowed, you just have to legitimately be grateful for it). The tree has grown out of the bounds of a poster board and now we just tape it directly to the wall so it can grow and grow and grow.
So….the 2021 Thankful tree. Where we are thankful for besties, teachers, family, cute guys at a repair shop, vaccines, wiggle butt dogs, access to healthcare, star trek, Taylor Swift’s All Too Well (the ten minute version), honesty and forgiveness (Lily said both usually need to go together), Lisa from poison control (I think that’s her name) [editor comment: it was not her name, her name was Gloria], memories, ur mom, and my favorite this year: gourds (I like their shape).
And a throwback to an early tree in 2010, maybe our third year doing the tree. The first few were prior to the obsessive cultural need to document everything, but I have them rolled up in some box somewhere.