The Benefits of Getting Good and Old

12/03/2010 04:12 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Cynthia Dill Civil rights lawyer; former state senator, writer

Go back to the day after Thanksgiving. Serenity might be too strong a word, but forgive yourself: your mind is still foggy from heavy injections of sugar, butter and tryptophan. You are experiencing Thanksgiving nirvana.

You had mixed feelings about the holiday as a kid. There was love in the air, and something else. Momentum in the kitchen was palatable. The sounds of mixers, an electric carving knife and whisking, accompanied by the oven door opening and closing gradually increased in crescendo. Foil-covered bowls and pots outnumbered guests. Stuffing with onions and celery was overrated, the sauce pan containing the turkey neck and liver gurgling on the stove revolting, sweet potatoes with marshmallows delightful to make and eat. Your mother barked at your grandmother. It was hot. The dishes and pans to wash were overwhelming, the dessert buffet usually worth it.

Then you got married and strived to be Martha Stewart. You toiled over an artichoke stuffing with free-range walnuts that nobody liked. The turkey was blessed and fed a last supper of organic grain before it was killed and priced accordingly. Roasted root vegetables with sprigs of herb that you grew in pots on your deck were not quite the big hit you hoped for. You made that fourth trip downtown in traffic for the pricey Gewurtztraminer you absolutely needed for dinner. The dishes were still overwhelming, and with a headache even more challenging. Your kids didn't eat anything and were hungry for macaroni and cheese. And you made it for them.

Thank God middle age set in.  You looked yourself in the mirror and saw an old friend who never was much of a cook, and you realized that it doesn't matter. You wanted everyone to come and didn't fuss a lot with decorations from Target. Butterball Turkey and Bell Stuffing were gorged by laughing nieces and nephews. Sweet potatoes with marshmallows were more delightful. You happily surrendered pie-making to your mother-in-law and daughter and turned a blind eye to children drinking soda and eating cookies minutes before dinner.

You drank the wine that was closest to you and opened. You ignored the dog hair blowing around in tumbleweeds. You gave in to the energy and wonderful chaos. You had a vision of your limited days and years ahead, and you knew you had choices. The memories were in the making.

Presented to you on Thanksgiving was an opportunity to be in the moment, and you finally had the good sense to seize it.