Three years before Winston Groom delivered the commencement address at my college graduation, one Mary Schmich published the speech I wish I’d heard that day.
After appearing in the June 1, 1997 issue of the Chicago Tribune, Schmich’s essay struck a chord so profound that the piece eventually caught the attention of Australian film director Baz Luhrmann, who used the article in a spoken song version, now known to the world as “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen).”
When I first heard it I was 21, on the cusp of entering the workforce and living on my own, outside the cocoon of college life. Back then, I found it thoughtfully amusing.
I heard it again the other day, now as a 36 year old who has clocked in 15 years of full time work and all the responsibilities and privileges that accompany this stage of life. This time I found the lyrics to ring nakedly true, especially at this time of year as I prepare my home, my heart and my attitude for Thanksgiving.
For the Cybulsky-Walden family, Rett and I like to host Thanksgiving dinner in our home.
Having everyone here is a tradition that’s become very meaningful for us, which is not to say it’s an easy feat to pull off.
The set up requires us to split across two different tables in two different rooms.
The size of our group also puts a pinch on den area seating, normally more than adequate for our little family of four.
And for several hours that day, my normally spacious kitchen feels unbearably small.
In sum, the price I pay for wanting to have all of my favorite people all together all at once is that we are all together, all at once.
Which brings me back to my attitude. And Baz Luhrmann. And Mary Schmich. And a few lyrical nuggets of wisdom they’ve imparted that remind me, “Everybody’s Free” (To Enjoy Thanksgiving):
“Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead. Sometimes you’re behind. The race is long. And in the end, it’s only with yourself.” My home is small and well-loved, but not especially glamorous. I wish I could welcome everyone into a sprawling, pristine dining room of Pottery Barn worthy standards. Then again, there’s something homespun and organic and wonderfully “us” about the way we do it now, squished together in the kitchen with our heads bent in prayer, thankful for another year in good health and with each other.
“Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults.” Buddy can I ever hold a grudge. Most women can. But no good ever came from bringing a gravy boat’s worth of pent-up grievances to the Thanksgiving table. And you know what? When I really, self-reflectively think about it, for almost every misunderstanding, careless remark or deliberate barb I can remember, I can also recall twice as many kindnesses shown me by that very same person.
“Get to know your parents.” I want this now more than I ever have before. Not for the clichéd reason of their advancing age, but because I’m at the point where I’m finally, earnestly able to see that my parents, and my in-laws, are way cooler than I’ve ever bothered to give them credit for. As I’m busy balancing the million little parts that keep our household humming happily along, there they are, calmly chilling on the other side of mid-life crazy. This Thanksgiving, I want to move beyond surface level appreciation for them, and be deliberate in celebrating who they truly are.
Wishing you blessings in abundance this Thanksgiving season,