A Not Thankful Thanksgiving


 “I’m not thankful for nothing. There, I finally said it. Don’t care if I get in trouble neither.” As a kid, that statement at any other time of the year would’ve gotten me into a whole bunch of trouble — perhaps even sent to my room without dinner, but that day was different. That day was Thanksgiving. And even though I was only seven years old, I was still supposed to be thankful. (It’s some kind of law or something.)

But to be honest, I wasn’t.

Now, as soon as I said it, I wished I’d hadn’t. Not that it wasn’t true mind you … it was. I truly wasn’t thankful for anything. And there were a whole bunch of reasons why.

But I wish I hadn’t said it because of the anticipated forthcoming punishment from my parents. It was gonna be swift. It was gonna be harsh. Whatever was about to occur, I was sure it would be memorable — the punishment of all punishments. But at the time, I could never have imagined that I would still remember that day over fifty-eight years later. So, what happened because of my comment?


That’s right, absolutely nothing. Not a word was said around the table. Not an eyebrow was raised. My comments hanging in the air were met with empty gazes and open mouths from my brothers and The Sister. Mom and Dad just exchanged looks and shifted in their chairs a bit, but no hellfire rained down upon me.

But why?

To make more sense, I really should start this story at the beginning … a beginning that happened a long, long time ago around a formal dining room table on Thanksgiving Day in a house located on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo.

Growing up was indeed a magical time for those seven years we spent in the house our dad built with his own two hands, but if I were being totally honest, he could be really irritating at times. Dad was constantly telling us things like, “When you get older, you’ll understand,” or “Look around. You don’t realize it, but you’re rich.” and “There are lots of folks that don’t have what you have: food on the table, a roof over your head, a warm bed to sleep in, people who love you.”

But his favorite saying he repeated at least once a week, “Be thankful you have your health. You can have all the money in the world, but if you don’t have your health, you really have nothing at all.” This last pearl of wisdom was repeated more on Thanksgiving Day than at any other time of the year.

At every Thanksgiving meal, it was a tradition at our house before we ate, Dad made each of us state what we were thankful for. But today when my turn came, I said what I said. In my defense, I was gonna say that I was thankful that down the Street Bully Brad hadn’t beaten me up that week — a truly rare occurrence. But Monday he chased me down, knocked me off my bike and punched me in the nose. So, yeah … I wasn’t thankful for that.

And I wasn’t thankful for Older Brother Richard either. You see, it was during the Flamingo Street Monday morning dodge ball game that he threw the ball so hard at my leg it made me limp for hours. My limping is what made peddling away from Bully Brad impossible. But that’s not where my black eye came from.

The day before we had a water balloon fight against the rich kids who lived over on the Duke of Gloucester. Even though we’d won, there were injuries on both sides. My black eye had come from a perfectly thrown water balloon. Unfortunately, it had been hurled by none other than Big Brother James. He said it was payback for my jumping on him in the middle of the night.

It wasn’t fair! A black eye is far worse than being awakened by someone jumping on you at 3:00 a.m. At least that’s what I thought. And that’s why I wasn’t thankful for James.

Now I knew I should say I’m thankful for The Sister, but after what she did, how could I? She told Mom we’d torn the heads off her Barbie dolls again and used them instead of rocks in our slingshots. So why would I be thankful for her getting us in trouble?

I was gonna say I was thankful for Twin Brother Mark, but he woke me up that very morning with a pillow fight, so I wasn’t in the thanking mood for him neither.

So what did my parents do to punish me for my comment? Absolutely nothing. They never spoke of it … ever. My comment about not being thankful for anything was so absurd, so naive, there was only one thing that could possibly make me see how ridiculous it was.


Looking back, of all the Thanksgivings we had while living on Flamingo Street and all the ones since, I’ve never forgotten what I said that day or how wrong I was. And perhaps that was the lesson my parents had tried to teach me so many years ago. Much time has passed, and I’m much older now. Finally, I understand.

This Thanksgiving, I look across our table and see all our family looking back. We have plenty of food, a roof over our heads, warm beds to sleep in, and people who love us. And yes, we all still have our health. There are lots of folks out there that don’t have one of those things, much less all of them. It has taken a lifetime for me to realize that we are all truly rich. Hopefully it won’t take our two granddaughters as long to realize that as it did me.

This Thanksgiving, as we go around the table saying what we are thankful for, I can truthfully say I’m thankful for one additional thing: that we are all are still here to celebrate this day together as a family.

Now that’s something to be thankful for at any age.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories weekly in The Citizen since 2001.]