Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | November 21, 2012

Thankful … oh, so thankful …

The back yard of our little house in Minnesota, looking over toward Ava Dale’s back yard.

Because I can, I’m going to share (for posterity’s sake) a wonderful note I received from our dear neighbor in Minnesota, Ava Dale Johnson. (I’m sorry, Ava Dale, it was too lovely not to share!)

And then I’m going to share my reply, because … well, hell, it’s my blog and I can do what I want. A warm, holiday hug to all of our friends and family in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Denver, Washington, D.C., Florida, New York and every place in between.


Unseasonably mild, this day before Thanksgiving, I sat on my patio hugging my breakfast oatmeal.

The almost bare branches of various trees frame my yard now.  Gold-brown mostly.    Birds flit across the backyard open space, cocking their little  heads in security check from the rim of our birdbath, then sip and zip away to  observe the world from a telephone wire above.

Whenever have I left that birdbath sitting out, so late in the fall?  Will we possibly eat OUTSIDE tomorrow?

I wanted to tell you that it’s comfortable today between your house and Que’s. The sun’s quiet then piercing brightness lighting the sky from the east.

I wanted to tell you I’m thinking of you, at Thanksgiving time–that non-holiday for you in a foreign land–and remembering how odd but okay it is, to realize that this family saturated time still tweaks something inside you no matter  where you are.

And we think of you as a family part of our preparations for feasting together tomorrow.   Love to you, Mark and Mel!  Be well, safe, and at peace.

Ava Dale
(and 11 others of her tribe who will gather at my house.)

Dear Ava Dale,

Your poetic and spiritual view of life — here and there — makes me swoon just a little.

Yes, these are times when the yearning for family tugs a little harder and we miss those familiar things just a little more. But as I’m sure you remember, life in a strange land throws more things at you than your heart and head can process. We will sit in our school’s “canteen” (it’s an old-world cafeteria for sure) and enjoy “Thanksgiving,” thanks to our new executive chef, the English guy who used to run our favorite restaurant here. The restaurant hosted Thanksgiving last year. Now it is gone, but the school will wrap us in its own funky embrace.

We’ll share our meal with 130 others (at least) and try to explain to the uninitiated what this is all about. That, yes, it’s about turkey and cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. But as it has evolved, at least in our families, it’s about taking the time — today, sure, but always — to remember to be thankful for the good fortune we’ve enjoyed. To not lose sight of the gifts — whether by god or extremely good fortune (depending on your perspective) — that have landed in our unsuspecting laps.

Here — and in places in much worse shape than here — we are ever mindful of our good luck. We were lucky to be born in a country of such wealth. We were lucky to be raised by hard-working families who cared for us. We were lucky we didn’t have to fight and kill for our daily bread. That we didn’t have to hitch ourselves to a mule to plow a field. That we didn’t have to rely on the generosity of strangers to fill our cupboards. As you know all too well, considering where you’ve been and what you’ve seen, it has to be luck. There can’t be a god so cruel as to hand me so much and heap so much pain on so many others.

So, yes, it’s a time to take a moment to give thanks. To share our bounty with others. To laugh (oh, we are so lucky that we can laugh in a world so cruel and on the brink). And to hope. For without hope, there really is no point in all of this, is there?

With all the love and hugs we can muster,

Mark and Melody (and Jenna, of course!)



  1. This pair of pre-Thanksgiving emails, plus the photo–I like!

    (just a paste- on to you, personally: As I type, I hear–my whistling teakettle? No, a soulful melody from an American Indian flute. No kidding. My Susan’s partner has (while on visit to St.Paul) set up his law office on my kitchen table around the corner from me here. In between web research and phone exchanges with his CA clients, he sometimes relaxes via music from one of his collection of intl. flutes. The tag: Let’s remember First People in this wondrous America–to thank and ask forgiveness for our self-interests. Industrious and inventive, we invented that our God preferred us. We continue to learn.Ava Dale

  2. There you go again, Mark, touching a nerve and making me go all verklempt… I will be dinner hopping here in Minnesota and thinking of my good fortune all along the way. Part (a huge part) of my good fortune has been the privilege of knowing some fabulous people along my journey, and you, Tune, and Jenna are high on the list. A big shout out to Ava Dale, too!

    Happy Thanksgiving to all this reaches (and beyond)!

  3. Happy belated Thanksgiving to you guys! We miss you in Minnesota!

  4. Just lovely. And I really like your comment about being able to laugh in this hard world and have hope. It’s what keeps us putting one foot in front of the other. Thank goodness for that.

  5. Just getting my computer back online so I am late coming to your blog, Mark. Thank you to your dear neighbor, Ava Dale, for starting that beautiful conversation. We missed you and Melody at our Thanksgiving table but were so happy to have Jenna here. No Mac kids anymore so we had to haul a few people in off the “street” and have them all write their “thankful for..” notes to put into the Thankful Box that Mel and Jenna started so many years ago. Many thanks for that thoughtful post.

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