Because many sticky fingered readers asked me about my Thanksgiving snowflakes I’m reposting this.
Cinnamon rolls remind me to be grateful, consequently they are my altared space today. When my children were young my husband and I lived in the same town as both our parents. With divorce on both sides we had a lot of houses to visit on Thanksgiving Day. We’d bundle babies in layers upon layers of snowsuits and head out.
We’d unbundle, eat, drink and be merry for a few hours only to rebundle and head off to the next home to unbundle and eat again. Making the family hop didn’t always leave a period of time dedicated to counting our blessings. It was this compacted holiday schedule that inspired me to find a way to teach my children to give thanks on Thanksgiving. Consequently I baked cinnamon rolls.
On Thanksgiving morning, still in our jammies, my little family now gathers to fold tiny squares of tissue paper into even tinier triangles. We take snips of tissue paper here and there between bites of our hot-out-of-the-oven rolls and unfold to let the mystery snips reveal a fairy’s treasure. Onto these fairy whisper snowflakes we write the names of people who have made our year particularly gratifying, then hang them on our family tree.
It is easy to think of something I’m grateful for that happened yesterday. And I’m always grateful for my family. But coming up with something unique about each particular year of my life is a bigger mental puzzle. Each of us has learned to look at the big picture as we lick sticky fingers.
When he was two my son was particularly grateful for the trash truck that pulled up to our student housing apartment. He didn’t need to articulate this to me. The gymnastics he performed on the kitchen table told me how thrilled he was to see that dinosaur-looking behemoth extend its fingers into the dumpster, haul it fifteen feet in the air and make that tremendous crashing sound of metal on metal. To a two year old who requested the TRUCKS book every day before napping, this truck appearing just outside our window every day was nothing short of miraculous.
In order to let people know their names adorn our decorative snowflakes we offer them some of the cinnamon rolls we’ll be eating while we speak their name and offer thanks for their presence in our lives. We hand out our tin foil bundles in the days before Thanksgiving so people will know we’re mentioning them as we eat these same little yummies.
I can assure you the trash truck driver had never before received such enthusiastic gratitude. He had no idea he was the main event in my son’s life nor that his daily presence brought such joy. After that he waved toward our kitchen window as he went about moving levers and pushing buttons to make that tremendous crashing noise.
My mechanic was equally surprised to find me handing him a package of tin foil with instructions to warm it on Thanksgiving morning. I had just moved my family to Omaha where my husband would spend four years in school. Money was tight and our cars were not. My car was wandering all over the lane on the freeway and I knew something had to be done. I cringed when I took my little blue car to his garage afraid of how the unexpected bill would sink me.
But he called two hours later having filled my tires with air. No charge. He “no-charged” me not less than four times before there was a legitimate bill for me to pay upon pick-up. I had no hesitation giving him boat loads of money after that because I knew I could trust him. It was this trust, when I felt adrift, for which I was so grateful.
I’ve given cinnamon rolls to bank tellers and best friends, people who’ve welcomed us to a new place without knowing it and people who’ve sat at our dining room table to play cards or drink wine for years and years. A transformation has always taken place in the wake of handing out our simple package of kneaded dough.
Everyone wants to be needed. Knowing they made a difference to me or to my family brings a spark of ignition. A new life glows between us. Sometimes our cinnamon rolls recognize relationships where there has been lots of history. Sometimes they abolish the invisible wall between strangers. Always this recognition that these people mattered creates a little altar of human dough between us.
I find it ironic that the crazy days when I was hopping from house to house to connect with all our family members brought me this little tradition of connecting to the larger world around me. It helps me remember to be grateful even for the things in life I think I want to hop over.
Is it ever awkward for you to extract the “thank you’s” at your table? Are there people you’d love to thank but you don’t know how? Are you dizzy from being a family hopper eating too much turkey and mashed potatoes?
What do you think of my new look? I’d like to thank Dan Fennell for his patience and attention to detail.