Thanksgiving reminds me of my grandmother, Elizabeth. When we were little, our family used to make the trek down from Trumbull to Staten Island where she lived, braving both the BQE and the Verrazano Bridge – which is not for the faint of heart even on the best of days. My grandmother was one of seven children born to the Fallon family in County Longford, Ireland. Her father was the local blacksmith, whose modest forge was built next to their little house, which backed up against what locals called the turlough. The turlough was a low-lying area that was subject to frequent flooding each spring because of the welling up of groundwater. This meant that each spring the Fallons had to vacate their home and move in with their cousins who lived up the road until the waters receded. As a young girl, my grandmother was the one who made the terrible discovery that her father had been killed while re-shoeing a nervous horse. A poor family in a poor country, having enough to eat was always an issue. And so, seeking a better life, she came to the United States as a teenager where she eventually met and married my grandfather, also from Longford, and they settled down in Staten Island and raised their four children. My grandfather died in his 50s, so when my grandmother got old and started developing health problems, she moved to Connecticut to be closer to us, and lived here until she died in 1991. We all remember my grandmother as a simple woman, in a good way. Her life had not been easy, and she had a tendency to worry, but she had a gift for appreciating everything she had and any kindnesses shown to her.
My mother tells the story about how one day she was driving my grandmother to a doctor’s appointment. To get to the doctor’s office you had to pass through a rough part of the city. Looking around at the dilapidated buildings, my mother thought to herself, “this is a bad neighborhood.” No sooner had she thought that, did she heard my grandmother say: “Anne, look at that flowerbox over there. Aren’t those geraniums lovely?” Another time my mother took her for a drive through a fancy neighborhood, and looking at the big houses in silence, she suddenly turned to my mother and said with total earnestness: “oh, Anne, can you imagine all the windows you’d have to clean…” It was typical of my grandmother to notice the geraniums amidst the urban decay and to see the advantage of living in a modest home with fewer chores to do. The hardships she had endured during her life did not leave her embittered, but just the opposite. My grandmother was a happy person, because she was a grateful person. “What a wonderful way to be,” my parents would tell us.
In the Gospel reading for today’s Mass, Our Lord prays, saying: “I give You thankful praise, Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth. For You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, and have revealed them to the little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.” The little ones, the simple, the childlike, are precious to God, because they are like Him. In the scriptures, we often hear the Lord Jesus expressing thanks to the Father. All that He is, He receives from the Father, and then gives back to the Father out of love for Him. This is the inner life of the Most Holy Trinity – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – an eternal relationship of perfect praise, love, and thanksgiving among the Divine Persons. The childlike reveal something of God to the world because they understand their dependence and are always grateful, in good times and in bad. It’s a wonderful way to be, because it is how God is.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all!