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How Much is Enough?



Growing up, Thanksgiving was a major holiday with my extended family. My grandparents had a beautiful Tudor-style home in the Berkeley hills, across the bay from San Francisco. The scene from their dining room window served as a backdrop for our Thanksgiving meal, an unforgettable view of the San Francisco Bay framed by the Golden Gate Bridge on one side and the Bay Bridge on the other.


Every Thanksgiving morning my mother got my two younger brothers and me ready for the 45-minute drive to Grandma White’s house. It wasn’t exactly “over the river and through the woods”, but more like “across the Nimitz freeway and up the windy, twisty street to the house.” The savory smell of roast turkey greeted us when we opened the front door, as Grandma scurried around the kitchen trying to decide whether or not she had enough food for everyone. Should she add a few more potatoes to the pot? Would two Jello-mold salads be enough? My favorite was lime Jello with applesauce and 7-Up as the liquid of choice instead of water. I made it one year for my own family. My kids wouldn’t touch it. So much for traditions!


The more things Grandma took out of the oven, the hungrier I got. Was it time to eat yet? Oh no, we had to wait for my aunt, uncle, and five cousins. And they were always late. Every. Single. Time. Grandma even tried to give them an earlier dinner time so they could be there by the same we were to sit down. But that wasn’t good enough. We still had to keep the turkey in the oven and the lids on the pots until they got there.


But it was worth it. The greetings, the hugs, and the laughter permeated throughout the house, as the cousins retreated to the “breakfast room” for dinner, which included contests of who could tell the funniest joke, or cram the most olives in his/her mouth (after wearing them on all ten fingers first, of course). Not a year went by that we didn’t have a visit from an adult in the dining room next door, who gave us the “look” to quiet us down. That lasted for about five minutes, and then we were back at it. It was enough to drive our parents crazy, but we loved every minute.


Years went by, we moved away, the cousins grew up and went away to college. There never seemed to be enough time to get everyone together. Soon the breakfast room with the kids’ table was no longer needed. The dining room table was enough to seat those able to make it to Grandma’s Thanksgiving, but the empty seats grew as we all got older.


Grandma and Grandpa passed long ago, and my parents and aunt and uncle are also no longer with us. I recently attended my oldest cousin’s memorial service; he was only six weeks younger than me. Life goes on, but is it enough?


The dictionary defines “enough” as “adequate for the want or need; sufficient for the purpose or to satisfy desire.” Synonyms include “ample” and “reasonable.” But the word “enough” also has negative connotations, such as “had it,” “last straw,” and “up to here.” People worry about whether or not they are “good enough” or whether they are working “hard enough.”


What does “enough” mean to you? Is it enough to simply provide for your family, or do they always want more? Are we looking out for each other or just ourselves? Do we always have to have a new car because the neighbors got one, or will the one we have work just fine?


This is the time of year to count our blessings. Actually, every day should be one in which we are thankful for what we HAVE, rather than moan and groan about what we DON’T have. I think “enough” is all about expectations. If we receive an adequate amount but were expecting more, we tend to get upset. We let others bring us down instead of looking for the joy that can be found in each and every day.


So for me, on Thanksgiving Day, instead of mourning the empty seats around the dining table, I’ll recall the days when they were full, and the sounds of laughter that came from the breakfast room. I’ll fill the emptiness in my heart with the love from the next generation: my kids and their spouses, and my five grandchildren with their significant others. And I’ll smile and remember my grandmother’s turkey and trimmings, especially the lime Jello-mold. And although Grandma worried about having enough, I know that deep down, every Thanksgiving gave her enough joy to last a lifetime.


And that’s good enough for me.




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