Gratitude for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time set aside to recognize, remember, and celebrate our blessings. It is an official civil holiday with spiritual implications.

Many Americans will gather with family and friends around a table laden with roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, grandma’s stuffing, cranberry sauce, and homemade pumpkin pies. Think Norman Rockwell’s famous “Freedom from Want” painting. Only replace those famous, happy faces with those who will grace your own banquet.

Gathering for this glorious day is a blessing unto itself. We shouldn’t take that privilege for granted. Many don’t have that esteemed opportunity for a variety of reasons. Still, they celebrate, each in their own ways and traditions.

Some will fill their plates with the traditional carved turkey and all the trimmings, or perhaps a succulent ham. Others will choose a different course. Chinese carryout, homemade lasagna, or pork and sauerkraut are all viable options. It’s not the menu, but the meaning, the moment, and the memories we make that matters.

Thanksgiving meal with friends.

My heart swells when I recall all those long-ago Thanksgivings with our mother’s mother. Grandma’s three daughters, their spouses, and 17 grandchildren elbowed around a food-filled table to scrumptiously dine and enthusiastically express our appreciation for life itself.

At that point in our lives, none of the three families could claim to be wealthy. But clamoring around that long table with people we loved, and with those mouth-watering aromas wafting in the air, we were rich indeed.

With children in diapers to pimple-faced teens, it was a calamitous scene to be sure. The biggest fuss, if I recall correctly, was over who got to break the wishbone. We probably were all too young to comprehend the real reason and blessings being bestowed on us in those treasured moments.

As youngsters will do, we were too anxious to taste the turkey, enjoy the stuffing, and devour the pies. After that, it was a game of touch football, or we played hide and seek. Grass stains on blue jeans put a temporary damper on the festivities.

What sticks in my mind after all those years gone by is the joy of just being together. We were truly blessed but too young and excitable to know it. Now, I am sincerely grateful for those gatherings and those heart-warming memories.

We were only a decade or two removed from World War II. The Cold War was just heating up. We practiced air raid drills at school as often as fire drills. Thanksgiving Day was precious, and we gathered and played in honor of the day and despite the day’s disturbing news.

Though today’s headlines are just as conflicted and disconcerting, we seem to be living in a different world. Families are often too geographically scattered to celebrate together. They rely on technology to connect them, even if it is only for a few minutes of video conversation.

Others celebrate Thanksgiving in multiple gatherings, visiting one side of the family, and then going to the other. If that happens on the same day, please don’t bring out the scales.

I don’t mean to overstate the obvious. Given the frenzy of commercial clamor this time of year, let’s make sure gratitude is the centerpiece of each and every thanksgiving table regardless of what food is served.

It’s been my experience that when gratefulness prevails, more blessings will flow all around. If we all express our profound gratitude, Thanksgiving will be pretty tasty, no matter what’s on the menu.

Food, family, friends, gratitude. That’s a recipe that will guarantee a memorable Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving sunrise.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2019

Retreating to Lakeside again and again

Lakeside view by Bruce Stambaugh
The view of the dock and Lake Erie from Hotel Lakeside's front lawn. Kelley's Island is in the distance.

By Bruce Stambaugh

There are lots of places I would love to visit in the world. But every Fourth of July, you can find me with my wife at Lakeside, Ohio.

Fountain in front of Hotel Lakeside by Bruce Stambaugh
Wind blew the fountain's water in front of Hotel Lakeside.

Why do we keep going back? I’ll be a typical man and answer that question with another question. How can we not return?

We find the summer resort a respite from our busy schedule. A random survey of Lakesiders would likely reflect that common answer.

You could argue that respite can be found in plenty of other locales, too. But there is only one Lakeside, and the best way to appreciate it is to visit there.

The quaint town on the shores of Lake Erie mushrooms from 600 year-round residents to 3,000 summer vacationers. Gate fees are required from mid-June through Labor Day weekend.

I could list 100 reasons why we savor Lakeside each summer. But I’ll pare it down to a pertinent few pleasures we experienced during our latest stay.

Friends gather on the porch by Bruce Stambaugh
The porch at Maxwell's Hospitality House in Lakeside, Ohio is an inviting, relaxing place.

First and foremost has to be the renewal of relationships with friends, some who we only see at Lakeside. Of course, we stay in touch via email or phone. But we only see most fellow Lakesiders while we are actually at the Chautauqua on Lake Erie

We enjoy where we stay, and we always board at the same hospitality house. We like our hosts and their guests, most of who return the same week annually. We have a lot in common, share food, stories and values.

The Patio Restaurant at Lakeside OH by Bruce Stambaugh
The signs said it all.

We cherish the familiarity and ambiance that Lakeside affords. Doughnuts at The Patio Restaurant, ice cream from Coffee and Cream and pizza from Sloopy’s are all part of the Lakeside experience if we so choose

But we value the special surprises that always seem to plop in our laps. We run into friends from home or people we know that we had no idea even knew about Lakeside. It’s always fun to reconnect and discover how each found the resort town.

P.A. Dunfee of Lakeside, Ohio piloted his 1968 restored Lyman. by Bruce Stambaugh
P.A. Dunfee, Lakeside, Ohio, piloted his restored 1968 Lyman boat.

This year we had an extra special treat. A resident of Lakeside that we got to know through our hosts at Maxwell’s Hospitality House invited my wife and I for a ride on his restored 1968 Lyman inboard motorboat.

With the temperatures and humidity at the wilting stage, we leaped at the opportunity. The wooden boat, originally built in nearby Sandusky, glided through the slightly wavy water with ease. We cruised past Lakeside just beyond the dock.

Lakeside cottages by Bruce Stambaugh
Steamboat style cottages, typical of some of the older homes in Lakeside, Ohio, were decorated for the Fourth of July.

During out week’s stay, we also took in some of the evening entertainment that comes with the price of admission. Workshops, museums, tours and worship are also available for children through adults

Running at Lakeside by Bruce Stambaugh
The path along Lake Erie in Lakeside, Ohio is a popular place for exercise or just strolling.

Each morning I stretched my legs by walking the two-mile parameter of the lovely village. Walkers, runners, bikers and dog-walkers alike bid each other a friendly Lakeside hello or a nod

Besides the exercise and human interaction, I got to absorb beautiful gardens, charming restored cottages from Lakeside’s beginning in 1873, watch night hawks glide, stroll along where old trolley tracks once ran and glimpse tennis matches on both asphalt and clay courts.

Round porch at Lakeside, Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh
Inviting round porches can be found attached to many homes in Lakeside, Ohio.

I enjoyed a personal Lakeside moment, too. I found a lakeside bench under the generous shade from the large stand of old growth trees and watched the ferries shuttle between Marblehead and Kelley’s Island.

In that Norman Rockwell setting, time seemed to simply stand still. That alone is reason enough to treasure our annual Lakeside vacation.

Concert in the park by Bruce Stambaugh
Concerts in the park are always popular at Lakeside, Ohio.