Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | November 27, 2013

Thanks … thanks a lot.

I was asked by one of my students last week here at the American University in Bulgaria for my thoughts about Thanksgiving. It’s an odd little holiday if you think too deeply about it. After all, we’re celebrating and “thankful” about the conquest and “re”settlement of a nation a few hundred years ago. So, yeah, we all have our own ideas about what this holiday means to us as Americans. It’s tied up in the food, sure. But for many (most?) of us, it’s a time for sharing a family meal and remembering just how lucky we are to have been born in a place and at a time when our biggest challenge was deciding between the mashed or sweet potatoes. Oh, heck, I’ll have both.

Here’s what I wrote to my student:

Thanksgiving for me has always been a holiday for family, for togetherness, for giving thanks. We (and by “we” I mean the Wollemanns here) don’t “thank God” in a way that people normally use that phrase, “giving thanks.” But we are thankful. For family, for good health, for successes large and small … for the good fortune that shines on us. We know how lucky we are and how fleeting all of this is.

Over the past 20 years, we also incorporated a new tradition – the “Thanksgiving Box.” My wife, Melody, and our daughter, Jenna, decorated a small box one year and brought it out after our Thanksgiving meal (turkey, sweet potatoes, fresh vegetables, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie – the traditional American Thanksgiving feast). They also brought along small pieces of paper and handed them to everyone gathered around the table. On that paper, we all wrote a small note that shared what we were thankful for that year.

 My Uncle Richard humorously wrote that first time: “I’m thankful I don’t have to do the dishes.” But others noted they were thankful for more serious things. Good health. Good grades. Love. Togetherness. And, yeah, pumpkin pie.

Each year we write a new note, put it in the box with all the others – there are hundreds of them now. And later we take a few out and read them. We laugh at many. Some are silly and wonderful. But some of those notes bring a tear to our eyes. Uncle Richard died years ago. He lives on in our little box, though, and we remember his sweet demeanor, his sense of humor … and his aversion to doing the dishes.



  1. Brought tears to my eyes.
    I am always saying how lucky we are to have such wonderful family and friends.
    In my daughter Shannon’s words, “I just love our family!”
    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. We miss and love you all.
    Richard’s daughter, Sally
    PS. If I cook, maybe I don’t have to do the dishes 🙂

  2. Thank you, Mark. Always down to earth and tongue in cheek. Keep smilin’ through and in touch. Love to all yours~ Ava Da

  3. I am thankful I am a part of this loving clan. And that I got to know Uncle Richard, who was always so sweet and had the best denim overalls! Happy Thanksgiving, Wollemanns! Xo

  4. Awww Mark! Such sweet memories. We’ll miss you and Melody and Jenna at our table for dinner today. But, I think I will put some pieces of paper on the table and ask those that are here for their thoughts. Maybe one will be as memorable as my sweet brother’s has been for these many years. Bring the Thanksgiving box when you come to visit next month!!
    Hugs to all my family, scattered all around, but close to my heart.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: