Monday, November 26, 2007

Giving Thanks

Merriam-Webster's etymology of "thank" is from Old English thanc thought, gratitude; akin to Old High German dank gratitude, Latin tongēre to know.

This past weekend's Thanksgiving road trip to the Murphinis was a refresher on knowing that I belong to the Murphy clan.

Let's start with a wonderful meal: tortellini soup & fresh greens salad mix, bacon-wrapped sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, strawberry fruit jello with pretzel topping, a golden-brown brined turkey, decorated ginger cookies and two homemade pies: pumpkin and strawberry-rhubarb. Delicious. Who's Rachel Ray? Connie's kitchen was where it's at and was worth the trip in and of itself.

But there was more than just fine dining. It's the companionship, the kinship, that I relished the most.

To illustrate, the Murphinis have some traditions at Thanksgiving. One is to watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. There aren't many better ways to cope with holiday zaniness than to watch the antics & dysfunction of the lovable Griswalds.

Another Murphini tradition is to name something for which we are thankful during the Thanksgiving meal. Doing so is an exercise in communicating those things important to family.

I told about the lessons I learned the first time I ran away from home. I don't exactly remember why I did it, but it was probably because of my older brother Matt. I was eight; he was ten. There is a thin line between love and hate among brothers at that age. In truth, I loved him but despised what he inflicted upon me. His favorite torture was to pin me down and thump my chest and put wet-willys in my ears. But this was just a prelude to the dreaded, hacked-up, deep guttural goober being dangled precariously over my forehead. It would hang there for a few seconds before being voraciously sucked back into his mouth. I tried to play it cool by counting - one... two... three... fou - "Sluuuuurp!!!" Matt sucked that nastiness back in and the cycle resets. Each time that snot ball got closer and closer while I anxiously mumbled another ten-count. Inevitably, the goobery weight would snap the over-extended sinuous snot-strand. With a warm and viscous slap, it hit my forehead and drove this eight year old mad. It was probably something like that that compelled me to run away. With burning tears running down the cheeks, I ran with fury for a few blocks, believing in my heart that each step would lead me away from them forever. After exhaustion hit, I was forced to rethink this strategy. I was cold and hungry. Fifteen minutes after I ran out of their lives for good, I returned and asked Mom what was for dinner. I'm sure that I wasn't even missed because I didn't even tell anyone of my plan to run away. Still, it meant a lot that they were there when I came home.

"You got to learn to stick to your own blood or you ain’t going to have any blood to stick to you."    --Colonel Abner Snopes to young Sarty in William Faulkner's Barn Burning.

It wasn't the last time that I ran away from them. I made some painful choices later in life that could have resulted in them shutting the door on me for good. Still, they've been patient, correcting and compassionate when I returned to my senses and came home.

I suppose that I'm little like Cousin Eddie. My wife's name is Katherine, I have a large clumsy dog and my neighbors would tell you that I've worn goofy hats and robe outside plenty of times. And even though I don't have an RV to abduct your boss in, like cousin Eddie, I've had my shares of blunders.

This year, I have gratitude to know that my family has stuck with me through it all.


  1. Ah yes, the run away from home at a young age experience. I was 6 when I tried. It was summer, and I was upset that my mom wouldn't let me do something. Can't remember now. I told her I was running away and she took my shoes away so I couldn't. I got her though. I found some snow boots (exactly like Napolean Dynamite had) in the closet and took off. Just like you, I ran about 3 blocks away and decided I had to rethink my strategy. So I walked up to the nearest house, rang the doorbell, and asked the lady who answered if I could live with her. I said I ran away and I had to live with someone, and I picked her. Well, that didn't last long. She called my mom and back home I went. After all, this was a town of 5000 people so everyone knew everyone. Especially within a 3 block radius.

    And with regard to brother-abuse, I skipped the Shabbos TT so I could make up some of my ill will toward my little brother by spending time with him. I'm sure he's scarred for life, like if someone tries to tickle him. His wife even told me and my big brother that he went catatonic when she tried to tickle him. Well, not that bad, but he explained to her that we were rather harsh on him as a child. I got picked on from my older brother, and we both picked on little bro, so we have some amends to pay.

    But as you say, that's family and we've gotten past some difficult times still intact. And that's what turkey day weekend is for, in my book. Remind your family members that you may not always see eye to eye, but you still love them.

  2. I too ran away from home, but it was at age 18 when I left for college, then again at 21 when I moved to KC, and finally at age 25when I ran away from being a Murphy and became a Murphini after marrying my soul-mate, Connie. But as far as I've run to be my own, changing cities, states, and psuedo-nationalities, I have found that no matter how far away you go, your family is always there.

    For the record, Brady was too young for me to torture, I honed my skills on his older/my younger brother Matt, which probably led to Brady's experience. My favorite moves were verbal, but the best physical move was to put my hand on Matt's forehead and stiff-arm him whilst he threw roundhouse after roundhouse punch tantalizingly close to my gut.

    And when Brady was 8, Brendan was just a toddler (and a handful), which may have had something to do with Brady's lack of visibility and Matt's impunity to inflict character builiding seemingly unnoticed.

    My biggest problem during the weekend was taking Brady on a 25 mile bike ride to show him I still got it...only to find out that he's got it better, esp on the hill climbs. For the record, I toasted him on the downhill glides due to my superior wheelset and body mass index. F=MA

    The REAL lesson to learn, however, is to understand what you are thankful for in your life.

  3. I ran away from home, too. I packed my Hot Wheels carrying case -- looked like a suitcase -- and headed next door. Oh, and the case was filled with all of my Hot Wheels, not my clothes. Who needs clothes when you have Hot Wheels?

    I confidently and angrily walked up the steps to the neighbors' house and rang the bell.

    They weren't home.

  4. whew.... for a second there I thought Bryan's story was going to turn into a tale straight out of Madam Bovary....

  5. Madam Bovary? After reading brief synopsis, a wikipedia entry and even a graphic novel version write up on "Gemma Bovery", your reference to Bryan's story still floated over my head. Scratch-scratch. There was one? I guess I'll have to go blow the dust off of Flaubert...

    Also, I wasn't totally invisible. When I was about four, I remember falling asleep behind the couch and waking to find two policemen taking details from Mom of my alleged disappearance. Mom cried when she saw me. I hope that was a good thing.

  6. By the way, Murphini, you've still got it baby, even if you're toasting me down hills and on un-announced sneak attacks/sprints to the next lamp post. Despite the cold and discomfort, it was still a great ride. Thanks!