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Caroline Creighton '17 on Thanksgiving

November 22, 2016

Selected by her classmates, Caroline Creighton '17 delivered the annual Thanksgiving address during assembly on Tuesday, Novemnber 22. Her complete remarks follow:

Good morning. First I would just like to say thank you to everyone in the senior class and the faculty for giving me the honor of speaking to you today for such a well-known Burroughs tradition. So, thank you. I greatly appreciate it. Here I am today in front of you all to tell you about the importance of Thanksgiving and what it means to me personally. The meaning for me has changed over the years, as I’m sure it has for many of you, and I will do my best to show that. As one who has never said more than a few sentences in front of this many people at one time, I can honestly say that I never expected to find myself in such a position, but here we are, and I will do my best. We’ll see how much I’ve improved since seventh grade speech class.

There are many different takes that people have on Thanksgiving. Some are uneasy as they look to having conversations with family who might not fully understand or respect a certain identity or perspective of theirs, and I completely understand this. Some love it, and look forward to it every year with eagerness and excitement. I can also relate with this perspective very strongly, looking forward to family, friends, and some pretty stellar food. And perhaps there are a number who view it in its historical context, looking back to the impending conflict and negative connotation that it holds. As a Native American, I can also understand this, though most times I simply give the history of the holiday no thought.

My idea of Thanksgiving has sort of morphed over the years. When I was younger it was just a day where I would have to wear itchy sweaters and eat whatever my mom put on my plate for me. At the time I used to dread mashed potatoes, god knows why, and would always find myself faced with a full pile to eat before I would be allowed dessert. The challenge then was just to get through everything as quickly as possible. Then the day became something to look forward to: a time when I could see my aunt and uncles, my cousins, my grandparents. I would be given the task of making dessert, which I always accepted with great pride, though that usually turned out to be an odd batch of rectangular marshmallows or a couple of homemade taffies that had the potential to break a tooth or two … but luckily never did. Nowadays I tend to joke that it’s just the last holiday before Christmas and the only thing keeping me from finally being able to blast holiday music on the way home. Not that that stops me. Sorry to anyone who has ever driven behind me ever. Even so, there is still the knowledge that this time of year is really for that getting together of family members and friends to show thanks for whatever gifts have been bestowed upon you that year.

The first Thanksgiving that I can remember was at my grandmother’s house. The only thing that comes to mind when I think back on it is playing cards with my grandfather in front of the fireplace and watching as he performed the only magic trick he knew of pulling a shiny golden coin from behind my ear. And they were half-dollars, so it was pretty serious business. No matter how many times he did it, I would always be surprised and I asked myself why he didn’t just sit and pull coins from people’s ears all day to gather a nice supply. I now realize why that wouldn’t quite work out, and I also appreciate how he would sit there for long periods of time just performing the trick for my enjoyment. Looking back on it, I imagine it couldn’t have been that exciting for him … but you never know.

I used to live in a big house with a fire pit out back and a brick patio with chairs that all of us would sit in for Thanksgiving. We had a rope swing that my brother, cousins, and I would try to scale while others set up the pot for the turkey, and I remember one year my brother actually made it all the way up to the tree branch from which it hung. My parents weren’t too pleased about this accomplishment, of course, but all of us kids thoroughly admired him for it. My aunt Ana would always pull out her tiny trumpet and play Taps as we all carried the turkey over to drop into the hot oil. On its way out, the song would resume, and we would form a line to the kitchen as my brother and father carried the turkey inside. After a number of years, we moved, and the rope swing and the fireplace were lost, but they came to be replaced by the well-known and comforting furnishings of my grandparents’ homes.

Most of the later Thanksgivings were spent at my Grandma Duffield’s house, and every year we went to hers we would end up playing cards. When my great grandmother was alive she would leave every single one of us in the dust, and we would do our best to find some way in which she could have been cheating. But we never did. We would play late into the night, after the meal was finished and after many others had gone to bed.

Not all Thanksgivings have been the best, however, as can often be the case with good things as they occur time and time again. Two years ago on Thanksgiving Day my grandmother passed away. We were meant to pick her up from her house, just a couple minutes away from my other grandmother’s, and my father went alone to do so. Minutes later we got a call, and we had an intuition that the news wouldn’t be particularly good to hear. My brother and I got in the car with my mother, leaving my other relatives to stay at the house, and we drove over to my grandma’s where we arrived to find her with her eyes closed seated in her favorite chair, all dressed up and ready to go with the muffled sounds of the Macy’s Day Parade coming from the television in front of her. I couldn’t tell any difference from if she had simply been asleep. I went to sit in my favorite room of hers with my brother while we waited for the EMS and police to come and I can remember just how quiet it was as we sat, waiting for something to happen to pull us out from what seemed like a frozen moment in time. I found comfort in the room with its walls made entirely of bookshelves and even a ladder to get to the highest of the high, but I also knew that from this point on the room wouldn’t ever feel quite the same anymore. And, though I hoped otherwise, neither would the holiday. I came to be wrong about this, as the past Thanksgiving was just as joyous and loving as those before it, and only after realizing the fear that all of this would vanish did I come to further appreciate it. That evening we returned to my other grandmother’s house and sat with loved ones as we ate our meal. It was more solemn, yes, than years before, but at the same time it held an astounding weight of meaning for me.
The common trend here is that I don’t really remember the food or the political arguments that my cousins, brother and I get into with our grandmother’s neighbor, though those are quite something to see, but instead the things I value and treasure consist of tiny moments shared with people that I love. Every year, if not every day, I remind myself just how lucky and grateful I am to have such loving and caring friends and family. I’m also grateful for the hardships such as the one I named earlier, as what results from them can lead to growth and self-awareness. Whether the hardship be the loss of a loved one or speaking in front of more than 600 people, many of whom you know as incredible teachers and friends, these help us to build who we are as individuals, and for that I am endlessly grateful. So, make sure to go off treasuring the ones you love most and never forget to enjoy every moment that you can. Recognize that, while there will be hard times, if you look back on them, their end result will likely have something positive in its midst. I hope every single one of you has a lovely Thanksgiving, and I thank you for your time.