John Grindrod: Thursday is the day to strengthen those familial root systems

November 21, 2012

I saw a bumper sticker a while back while waiting out a light on Market Street, and the message was about as succinct and cynical as it gets. The sticker read, “People suck.” Well, for whoever pulled the backing off and decided to display such an uplifting thought, I guess, Thanksgiving Day is just not all that big a deal.

Now, for the rest of us who relish the thought of a day with family, one unlike next month’s star holiday, without all those gifts and accompanying worries as to whether they’ll be received with relish or indifference, Thursday is indeed a gigantic deal.

While it’s a day for excessive caloric intake and for football, it’s also a time when we have the opportunity to pull the old emergency brake on life on what would otherwise be a workday and spend time with those who should be closer to us than any other on the planet.

I guess around this time of year with the twin family-based holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I will admit I do get a bit envious of those who are members of larger families. I remember my fascination with such clans began during my elementary St. Charles days when I became aware of the fact that not all families were like the Grindrods of Latham Avenue, who numbered a couple of parents and a boy and a girl.

And, when I got my first up-close look at the Seggersons of Kenilworth during a sleepover at the invitation of my school pal, Tim, and started counting heads, I realized not all households were the same.

I remember being fascinated by the impossibly long picnic-style table in the kitchen and also the size of the cans of fruits and vegetables I saw in their cupboards. The cans were the same as the ones I saw lining the back shelves of the school cafeteria as I slid my light green plastic tray down the rails, and, of course, they were cans that dwarfed the size of my Latham Avenue cans.

While I realized there were certain advantages to being in a small family, I still was pretty enamored of that notion of living in a house where there was such a flow of constant activity and variety.

And, for the families like the Seggersons and the other Catholic families of my youth, some even larger than the Seggerson 11, families with names such as the Ciminillos and the Gallaghers, I guess tomorrow will be a very big deal, provided the members who tend to scatter geographically far past the city limits in such large families sojourn back to their beginnings.

But, no matter the size of the family, from those that can field a baseball team and maybe even have a couple or so left over on the bench to cozier units, tomorrow is, indeed, a big deal. It will be a chance to reaffirm why family matters.

When it comes to families, I can’t help but think of the redwood trees that dot the landscape of Northern California.

You see, despite the redwood’s massive size, each has a very shallow root system. There is no tap root, and the roots that are under the ground go no deeper than six to 12 feet, which would seem so very inadequate for trees that often reach the height of 300 feet.

However, the roots typically spread out some 50 to 80 feet and intertwine with other redwoods, thereby strengthening all the trees in the grove and keeping them upright during even the strongest of storms.

And, in many ways, that’s what families do. They are comprised of individuals who both intermingle and strengthen, allowing each person to weather his or her own storms and remain upright.

Thursday, whether your gathering includes a total that approximates all those large Catholic families I remember from my youthful 1960s or, shall we say, a more intimate gathering, think about how good it is when we can intermingle and strengthen the grove that is our family.

Really, while there will be some that will tend to overestimate the ancillary components of tomorrow’s fourth Thursday of November — the parades and the football and the food — isn’t Thursday really all about the grove?

John Grindrod