With the holiday season now in full swing, most of us are probably still recovering from Thanksgiving feasts, but that doesn’t mean we should stop being thankful. We asked some faculty members and students to share about Thanksgiving and what they are grateful for; we hope these stories will inspire thankfulness and reflection even beyond the holiday.
AVISO: What are some things you’re especially thankful for this year? Why?
Kelsey Ciha, freshman middle childhood education major: Like always, I am very thankful for my family and friends, my education, and for good health. This year I am especially thankful that I am able to be planning my second trip back to Haiti for missions work. I have met some incredible people in Haiti that have impacted my life. I am so thankful that I will get to see them again soon and continue to build a relationship with them.
Karli Kadlecek, junior communication arts major: I’m especially thankful for my roommate. She is a great person.
Ashley Bostanic, senior art major: I am especially thankful for the growth of family and the opportunity to be together with my whole family. We are all very spread apart and rarely see one another, so any time together is treasured.
Michelle Hollinger, senior business administration major: I’ve been reminded this year of how important family is, and that we should cherish the time we have with them. I’m also thankful for solid friendships, health, a full-time job after graduation, and for Vinny Taddeo, and his ability to make me smile through tough days.
Frank Alexander, instructor of business: This year, we’ll be in Chicago with our son Tony, his wife Tiffany and our two grandchildren, Lola Sofia age 3 and Gemma Carmen age 1, along with Tony’s wonderful in-laws, our daughter Anita, and several other family friends. We are very lucky that God has given us so many gifts.
Steve Wirick, assistant professor of exercise science: Family, friends and Malone! All are true blessings in my life.
Lauren Seifert, professor of psychology: My greatest thanks today are for the Lord helping my uncle through a recent surgery. He has been suffering tremendously, and this surgery is a wonderful Godsend. I am thankful for my students (present and past), and for Malone. I am thankful for family and friends. And I am especially thankful for the Lord’s presence every day.
AVISO: What are some of your family/community/church’s most cherished or time-honored Thanksgiving traditions?
Ciha: As a family, we help cook dinner and watch the Macy’s Day Parade, just like we would do when we were younger. Once we are done cooking, we pack everything up and take it to my grandparents’ house to enjoy a nice dinner with our extended family.
Bostanic: The Friday, Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving, all of the men in our family go hunting for the weekend while four generations of women (my great grandma, my grandma, my mother and I) stay home and bake dozens of cookies to freeze for Christmas. My family also distributes turkeys to families in the community that may not be able to purchase one.
Hollinger: No matter what we’re doing in the morning, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is always on in the background.
Alexander: Coming from an Italian-American/Catholic family, my most cherished or time-honored Thanksgiving traditions involved all family members participating in dinner preparation, sharing stories of the past, and getting caught up on current events. The conversations went on for what seemed like forever! We all go around the table and each of us says what we are thankful for; it’s really a nice experience.
Wirick: For the past five years now, our family has adopted what we term “Open Thanksgiving.” My wife prepares a multitude of breakfast foods and we spend the morning eating, playing board games and sharing stories. The early afternoon is followed up with some backyard football with the kids (and some brave adults). Then late afternoon, my wife prepares more amazing food with some of the traditional Thanksgiving fare. It is a come-as-you-are and eat-whenever-you-want day. The end of the day culminates with a family Christmas movie such as A Christmas Story or Polar Express.
Seifert: Before Thanksgiving Dinner, our family gathers in a large circle in the living room. We go around the circle, and one by one, we describe at least one thing for which we are thankful. It is wonderful to hear about others’ gratitude. My dad closes the prayer by giving thanks “to the One who made it all possible.” For as many years as I can recall, I have been thankful for those moments when we stop to think about the things that God has given us. Last year, the annual Smerglia family prayer was especially meaningful, because we had shared our ideas about what prayer means to us.
AVISO: Can you describe a particularly memorable Thanksgiving?
Kadlecek: Before my grandma passed away, she would have my siblings and I perform the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet on Thanksgiving afternoon. She was really into the arts and would make us practice from the Monday she flew in until Thanksgiving Day. We even had a dress rehearsal. Now that she has passed away, it’s a memory we all cherish. Also, one year, a couple from Australia joined us. They had been dying to see snow, but it didn’t look like it was going to happen. Right before we sat down to eat, huge snowflakes started to fall. They ran outside screaming, jumping up and down and took multiple selfies (before selfies were a thing). They even started crying. I remember thinking how odd it was to see grown-ups so excited about snow.
Ciha: One year, my dad was in charge of cooking the turkey for our dinner with extended family. He was not paying attention, and our dog jumped up and grabbed it from the countertop. He had to make meatloaf instead because there were no more turkeys left at the stores!
Seifert: One of our best Thanksgiving holidays was just a month before our wedding. We had our rehearsal dinner on Thanksgiving weekend, and Toby’s mom booked it at the Massillon Woman’s Club. We shared wonderful time with family and friends. Friends from my church, the Krawsons, sang for us. It was a beautiful weekend.
Debra Lee, assistant professor of nursing: In the fall of 2006 our family was thrown into a vortex of sorts when my oldest brother, then 47 years old, suffered a major rupture of a cerebral aneurysm. Our worlds were shattered with just one phone call: “it’s Steve; they think he’s had a stroke and they’re not sure he’s going to live.” Not many get the reputation at the Cleveland Clinic, of defying odds in the Neuro-ICU, but Steve did. In just six weeks, he went from “we don’t see how this is going to work out” to “we think he can go back to work after the holidays.” The man who had been comatose for four weeks, on that Thanksgiving Day, was standing at the head of our table at Edwin Shaw Rehab Hospital to offer the blessing over our first meal together as a family. As I looked around the table at the faces, the tears of joy, the beautiful smiles, and Steve, I was certain a memory had been captured forever. Talk about grateful. We were. We are. Every day, every year.
AVISO: Are there any ways you and/or your family practice gratitude during the holiday or all year round? If so, what are they?
Kadlecek: My family has never been very big on Christmas presents, but it’s common for a gift to be given to some sort of organization in our honor. I’ve appreciated growing up with this way of thinking because it helps the focus not be on us.
Alexander: My brother Nick died last year of pancreatic cancer, at the young age of 62. He was the best person I knew; he’d do anything for you. And God decided to take him away. We all had a hard time adjusting, but just last week, we bottled his final batch of homemade wine and we’re now in the process of customizing labels to celebrate his creativity, and hopefully share it with all at the table.
AVISO: If you’re a Black Friday participant, would you share a Black Friday memory?
Ciha: A couple years ago, my mom and I joined my aunt on one of her Black Friday adventures. Before we left the house she gave my mom and I a color-coded copy of what she needed and where it will be located in the store. When we got to the store, she handed both of us walkie-talkies and gave us the exact time and location at which we were to meet. That particular experience was not only very entertaining and interesting, but also very stressful.
Hollinger: One year, I was waiting for the Walmart associates to unveil the DVDs and video games. As I was considering my game plan, the crowd suddenly erupted. I looked up to watch a guy throw his six-year-old daughter over a few people onto the top of the video game display, stick her arm down the side and grab something, then he yanked her back out, while chaos ensued. And the father of the year award goes to…not that guy.