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Susan Estrich
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Giving Thanks


When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday. We shivered in the stands during the big game against the Big Blue, and our longstanding losing streak didn't matter. By the time I was a junior, I sat in the first row wearing a short skirt. I may be the most uncoordinated person there is, but by sheer force of will, I learned to twirl a baton and made majorette, which was not the usual extracurricular for a much-maligned smart girl. Other than giving birth to my children and getting elected president of the Law Review, I think it was the happiest I've ever been.

In my little town, with all its lines between Protestants (number one) and Catholics (number two) and Jews (a distant third) — blacks would have been number four, but there weren't any — we all celebrated Thanksgiving. It was a quintessential American holiday, a day of unity and not division.

As I grew older, of course, there were many bittersweet Thanksgivings: all those meals where it was hard to notice who wasn't there, the family I didn't have, the disappointments of life. The days of cheering for the Magicians and coming home to a full table with my mother and father and sister and brother gathered together only made the days when I just hoped someone would invite me that much more painful.

And yet, the important lesson I have learned from Thanksgiving, from the hard days as much as the happy ones, is that you can choose to count your blessings or bemoan your losses. As I get older, as the empty seats multiply, loss becomes impossible to ignore. It is, like so many things, part of life, leaving us only the choice of what to do about it.

This Thanksgiving, people all over our country will come together without the ones they love most. They will come together after a year in which they lost their jobs, a year in which they had to explain to their children all that they hoped to give them and could not.

They will come together, at least if they are my age, without their mothers cooking their favorite recipes and their fathers tending the fire, watching the game, carving the turkey.

Half-full or half-empty? I realize in retrospect that the pure joy I felt as a kid was never really shared by my parents. They knew the loss I know now. They saw the empty chairs even at a crowded table. My parents were not perfect, far from it. I am, I suspect, just as far. But the challenge is to fill up that table, if not for ourselves, then for our children, for our friends. If you can't make it, fake it, as some of my friends always say. Truer words I have never heard.

A few years ago, my ex-husband and I decided, after many years of dividing the kids between us, to share the holiday meal together. We are a family, after all, a family united by the greatest blessing in my life and his, the two children, now both away at college, who mark our finest hour. At first, I thought it would be awkward at the very least. But it is far less awkward than the division and the sadness that marked our Thanksgivings for so many years.

My parents never got that far. Their divorce marked the end of family Thanksgivings. After my father's death a few years later, I never went home again for Thanksgiving. It was over.

I know my children someday will gather without me. Perhaps they will remember these words. Perhaps, somewhere, they will find them. The people we love are always there in our hearts. Thanksgiving can be, if we choose, a day to remember the love they showed us and the gifts they gave us, the fullness of life and not of loss, the blessings of life and not the long shadow of death. It can be a day to remember that, for all our nation's problems, we are the luckiest people on the face of the globe to live in the home of the free and the brave.

Happy Thanksgiving. May God bless us all.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



17 Comments | Post Comment
Happy Thanksgiving

Nuff Said...Dennis
Comment: #1
Posted by: Dennis
Tue Nov 22, 2011 9:18 PM
Estrich says "If you can't make it, fake it, as some of my friends always say. Truer words I have never heard." That everyone, is the real now spoken by one of them, essence of liberals, progressives and democrats. Happy Thanksgiving.
Comment: #2
Posted by: joseph wright
Wed Nov 23, 2011 4:28 AM
Well said. Happy Thanksgiving, Ms E.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Motley Wisdom
Wed Nov 23, 2011 5:49 AM
Give it a break, Mr. Wright.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Motley Wisdom
Wed Nov 23, 2011 5:50 AM
Re: Motley Wisdom
Why? The US is in an esistential fight against the liberalism, progressivism and socialism advocated by Estrich and her loathesome ilk that does not take a break. Simply because she writes a victimhoood sentimental, see how I care too, holiday piece of fluff, does not give her a pass. Happy Thanksgiving.
Comment: #5
Posted by: joseph wright
Wed Nov 23, 2011 6:24 AM
We should be thankful that good people express such appreciation for this fine holiday.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Cowboy Jay
Wed Nov 23, 2011 10:42 AM
As time rolls on and I fight a very dibilatating disease of my immune system triggered by a bad reaction to a flu shot, I now appreciate each and every extra holiday that I can be alive to celebrate. Each could be my last. Fourth of July is my favorite but Thanksgiving is right up there as I have wonderful memories of time spent with my family and kids.
This year I am thankful that the scandal at Penn State has put a stop to many kids being sexually abused as the spotlight has been shined on this subject. I pray that my daughter or sons or their children will be spared ever having to deal with a pedophile. The ignomy that these officials and faculty at Penn State will have to suffer should serve as a lesson to many around this country to be ever alert to these mentally deranged pervert criminals.
Looking back over the year, I am especially tankful that we had a president who was very proactive in taking out Bin Ladin, Awl-laki,, and saw to it that Ghadaffy finally met his demise (all without the loss of one American military man or woman) . I was especially happy to see Ghaddaffi get his reward as I lost a dear friend, Martin Appefelbaum a mild mannered stamp dealer from Philadelphia who died over Lockerbie......Marty was loved by a lot of stamp collectors in the Philly area. I hope he is aware in heaven that Khaddaffi is currently toasting in Hell.
I could go on and on but I am just happy to be alive and living in this wonderful democracy that allows us to live our lives in peace and allows us the chance every few years to vote for the people we want to run our government. If you want a nice gift from me for the holidays, go online and download the three page short story by Mark Twain entitled THE CURIOUS REPUBLIC OF GONDOUR. It is one of the best defenses of our one man one vote system of government ever written (Written BEFORE women had the right to vote but very insightfull nevertheless) Happy Thanksgiving.
Comment: #7
Posted by: robert lipka
Wed Nov 23, 2011 11:41 AM
Re: robert lipka I suppose that you are also thankful that this POS President's foreign policy debacle has left most of the middle east under the cosh of the Muslim Brotherhood or other Taliban or Islamist terrorists, that he has caused Turkey to side with Islamists that he has done nothing to halt or prevent Iran becoming a nuclear power, that he has abandoned Isreal which must now take whatever very dangerous steps it feels necessary to ensure its survival with a nuclear Iran just around the corner, that he has abandoned Poland and encouraged the return of "Soviet" style imperialism and aggression, that he is well on the way, as planned, to destroying our domestic energy production, well on the way, as planned, to destroying the coal industry and has cost millions of jobs, most recently hundreds of thousands of jobs by politically punting on the Canada to Texas oil pipeline and stopping shale drilling permits. I suppose you are also thankful that his policies have directly led to economic ruin and left us as hopeless debtors to China. As a further point we do not live in a democracy we live in a democratic constitutional Republic, which Obama and his odious ilk are working feverishly day and night to destroy: a task in which they are aided and abetted by those who continue to be" thankful" for the jackass in chief. Happy Thanksgiving
Comment: #8
Posted by: joseph wright
Wed Nov 23, 2011 1:57 PM
Two Wright writes seem to make a wrong, lol! Mr. Wright, I agree with most of what you wrote, I'd just have thought it both more politic and less boorish to wait until the day after Thanksgiving to spew. I fear you're spending the holiday alone, but I hope not - as the company would suck
Comment: #9
Posted by: Ken from WI.
Wed Nov 23, 2011 6:42 PM
Re: Ken from WI.

Bahhh Humbug!. LOL. I have my family, extended family and many friends around me, so fear not on my account. I fear not and neither do I give a damn about what is seen or perceived to be politic, boorish or whatever. The truth once spoken sets one free!. A sincere Happy Thanksgiving to you and to yours.

Comment: #10
Posted by: joseph wright
Wed Nov 23, 2011 9:30 PM
I'm a Conservative, but not Far Right, and enjoy Susan's articles. It disturbs me that Joseph W. is so full of hatred and venom no matter what Susan publishes. Yes, sometimes her views are contrary to mine, but Ye Gads, in describing what Thanksgiving is all about, please, Joseph, give it a rest.
Comment: #11
Posted by: Peggy Harmon
Thu Nov 24, 2011 9:42 AM
It was half-time of the Lions Packers game and I thought I would check the news on-line. There I found a wonderful story about Congresswoman Gabby Giffords......
This woman is the eptiome of what a public servant should be. What a miracle it is that she is still with us after that awful day earlier this year. Anywasy what did she do??? She gave up her time at home with her family to go to a Military base in her district and help serve turkey to military men and military retirees who were guests on-base for a dinner. For her to stand there to serve food to people when she is still recovering from her wounds and in therapy for her speech and motor skills is a tribute to her character. We should be Thankful today for her service and dedication to this country. I for one, pray that she makes a full recovery and goes on to serve many more years in our Congress. She can serve as a beacon of integrity for other Congressmen and women to emulate. Happy Thanksgiving Gabby !!!
Comment: #12
Posted by: robert lipka
Thu Nov 24, 2011 11:43 AM
"The people we love are always there in our hearts."
A beautiful column Ms. Estrich. You made me remember and love the people who used to sit in those empty chairs. Now we carry on.
Comment: #13
Posted by: Luton Moore
Thu Nov 24, 2011 6:08 PM
Susan Estrich, the case for the Berka...
Comment: #14
Posted by: Roger
Sat Nov 26, 2011 1:00 PM
Re: Peggy Harmon Thanksgiving is in most part about giving thanks to God for his mercy, for forgivenes of sins and for blessings bestowed upon us. Estrich's piece does not articulate what Thanksgiving is all abouit and indeed one has to read to the penultimate paragraph to find any mention of God and even then thanks is not given. Instead more blessings are sought. Still at least Estrtich mentioned God albeit not by way of giving thanks. Contrast this with the affirnmative action president who could not bring himself to mention God in his "Thanksgiving Address' much less offer up thanks to God. Estrich says "It [Thanksgiving] can be a day to remember that, for all our nation's problems, we are the luckiest people on the face of the globe to live in the home of the free and the brave" the gross irony of this statement is that it is odious liberals like Estrich and little president zero and their progressiove policies that would end freedom in this land and send us all on the road to serfdom and who villify the brave that keep us free.
Comment: #15
Posted by: joseph wright
Sun Nov 27, 2011 6:15 AM
Thanksgivng was about thanking God for what our forefathers gave us and praying that He helps us to keep it.
Comment: #16
Posted by: Early
Mon Nov 28, 2011 7:00 AM
Re: Roger
Comments by idiots not wecome on this site!
Comment: #17
Posted by: Early
Wed Nov 30, 2011 5:46 AM
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