Every Thanksgiving, I run the same four and a half mile loop. There are a few reasons this has become my tradition. Since I have the day off, I have the time to indulge in a run beyond my normal three miles. Most everyone is off of work, so there isn’t as much traffic. I can jog on the sidewalk without feeling self conscious of all the cars passing by. Most important, I can feel justified when I enjoy my dinner later in the day. In the words of Doug Stanhope’s late mother, “There are times to be dainty and there are times to be a pig.” I am a person that responds “yes” to the question “apple or pumpkin?”. I am a pig on Thanksgiving. Bring on the food.
It seemed appropriate to spend my run contemplating all that I am thankful for. I am fortunate to have a partner who takes the kids to the park so I can have time to exercise. I feel blessed to have a body that is in good health and has the fitness to enjoy a run. My in-laws do the heavy lifting in the cooking department, so I don’t have to spend all day in the kitchen.
Last Sunday, I listened to a sermon where my pastor said something along the lines of “When you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, think of all the hands your food had to pass through to get to your table. People of different backgrounds, beliefs, social classes. All of these different people making your dinner possible.” This resonated with me. Today, I tried to stretch my mind and think of all the people who made my run possible, all the reasons I am grateful.
Before running, I spent a few minutes downloading new music to listen to. I messaged a few friends about songs I was really into at the moment, thinking about the thousands upon thousands of these conversations I have had in the past. How all of those conversations influenced the present moment, turning me on to new artists, refining my tastes. Countless hours spent in cars, listening to songs and laughing- drives in my dad’s truck, listening to his country and western 8 tracks; driving too fast on back roads in my first car, a Ford Granada, belting out Pearl Jam with my closest girlfriends; cruising in my guru’s giant Lincoln becoming acquainted with jazz and hip hop; road trips across the country noting songs I loved on a small pad- listening to music all along the way only to get to a party to watch musicians make more music; driving on weekends to the town I grew up in to make music of my own.
I still make notations of songs I like, so I can make sure to download them later.
Today, that whole process seemed pretty remarkable. I live in a time where new music is literally at my fingertips. I can have any song I want, at any time I want. More than the music, I was struck by the act of reading my writing. I grew up in a country where reading and writing are not only valued but expected. I recalled a tour of duty my brother did in Afghanistan. Before going into the cities and towns, he would load his pockets with pens to give to the local children. Simply having a pen was a sign of literacy, a status symbol in country where education was not a given right.
That same brother and I butted heads a bit during the past election. The morning after Trump was elected, he sent me a video joking about how he would never vote for Clinton. My blood boiled for a minute. Then I texted him back and told him a big middle finger was coming his way. We both knew the other was joking. We exchanged “I love you” texts, and that was that. As I thought about him on that tour today, I also pondered how lucky we are to be able to have differing opinions and still be a family. We can openly debate our preferences without fear of retaliation.
I got dressed, put on my shoes, and grabbed some water. Readily accessible clean water and shoes. Those things speak for themselves.
I hadn’t been running in over a week, recovering from a bought of strep. At this time last week, I had the worst sore throat I had ever had in my life. A quick trip to the doctor and a few antibiotics later, and I’m back to running. Good health care, skilled doctors, medicine. They are my norm.
Last week, my kids asked me what taxes were. I explained how our cities need money to pay for things that all the people in the community use. I gave them the examples of roads and sidewalks and schools, and how these things are paid for with taxes. I ran along an impeccable sidewalk today, lined with trees and manicured bushes. I thought of people in houses with dirt floors, built from scraps and items others would deem trash.
The running app on my phone notified me when I hit the two mile mark, and I could not help but think back to my days on the track and field team. I was not a natural athlete, but I really wanted to be. To earn a letter for my letterman’s jacket, I had to accumulate a specific number of points. Points were earned by placing in meets. The easiest event to place in was the two mile because nobody wanted to run that distance. It was usually me and about three other fools lapping around the track.
The first time I ran the two mile, I wasn’t sure I could do it. One of my teammates, Carrie Glover, ran it with me. She was a gifted athlete. She had no reason to run the two mile, other than she knew how badly I wanted to earn that letter and went out of her way to support me. She told me jokes the whole way and even got me to sprint the last hundred yards or so. As any track and fielder knows, its important to “finish strong.” When I thought about Carrie today, I realized I have only seen her one time since high school- she came to my brother’s memorial. It was pretty amazing to see how many people from my old town came out for that service. I feel blessed to have grown up in a small, country town. When you grow up literally knowing every single person in your community, something special happens. Good, bad, you are bonded for life. As coincidence would have it, I now have the last name Glover, just like Carrie. I thought about all the different families we have- some we are born into, some we find through experience.
I thought of my father who tried so hard to make me into an athlete. He spent countless hours after work, shooting baskets with me, running me to gymnastics lessons, timing me as I practiced hurdles. And I was terrible at all of it, just terrible. Did he see me on my run today? Wherever he is, was he proud? Because I may not be agile or quick witted, but I have endurance. This body can carry me for four miles or more without problem. I may not be fast, but I am strong. My dad did raise an athlete, it just took me awhile to get there.
I passed a palm tree and for whatever reason stopped to take a picture.
As a kid, I thought the only place in the world that had palm trees was Hawaii. I dreamed of going there, imagining it as picture of paradise. I’ve now been to Hawaii, twice. My brother Casey visited me in Arizona last month, and remarked how he loved seeing the palm trees. If I am to believe my eight year old logic, I now live in paradise.
My kids just walked through the door from the park. It is my husband’s turn to get some exercise, so I guess I need to wrap this up. But on this day of thanks, I am grateful for my hour of “me” time, and to magnitude of folks who made it possible.