A Thanksgiving Lesson or Why I Bought a Fire Pit

It’s been 5 months since my grandfather died. He lived 90 years of a life defined by loyalty, integrity, dedication to family and a constant, enduring love of learning. He wasn’t an intellectual or moneyed. He was simply a man who strove to do the right thing all of the time, no matter the difficulties involved, and who wanted to make the world a little bit better for his family and his fellow men.

Mission accomplished, Pop.

One of the lessons he taught me resonates every day but never more so than at Thanksgiving. It’s this:

If you don’t have traditions in your family, make some.

My grandfather grew up in a dysfunctional family long before anyone coined the phrase. There was alcoholism, gambling and probably a healthy amount of potential (or actual) domestic violence. His formative years occurred in the shadow of the Great Depression and he truly came of age while taking part in the Second World War. Despite the disadvantages, at some point he gleaned the importance and the necessity and value of a strong family unit. Thank God he did because my family and everyone who spent time with him is better off for what he suffered through.

The best thing about family traditions is that it’s never to late to start them. My grandfather, as he liked to say, grew up “without two nickels to rub together.” Yet as he matured and started a family he would make time — and find the money — to take the entire family to a dress-up dinner at a nice restaurant each year. As he neared 90, he kept the tradition alive, instilling in his grandchildren the desire to continue it after he passed on. He died in June and he set aside money in his will for one last family dinner on his nickel, so to speak.

That’s one of the reasons why I strive each year to fulfill his goal of making family traditions paramount.

This year I bought a fire pit. It’s a little piece of connective tissue for our family of four. I wanted to get something that my wife and kids and I could gather round on a chilly night — granted there aren’t many of those in Florida — and sit together to roast marshmallows or make s’mores, talk about our day and our family life, without some sort of screen involved. And for those of you with kids, you know how challenging it can be to find quality family entertainment that doesn’t revolve around a cable subscription or internet connection.

We’ve used it occasionally this fall and it’s already made an impression on the kids. Each weekend they beg me to get it out and I happily oblige. It’s easy and doesn’t cost much to use — just the cost of a few pieces of wood at the local big box hardware store. And the results truly are priceless. We pull out our backpack chairs while the kids search the backyard for sticks to roast marshmallows. The boys climb into our laps and we help them toast those marshmallows until they’re black as the night.

And it’s fun. Good, pure, genuine fun. The kind of fun that you don’t want to ever end. The kind of fun that puts a smile where the ingredients are joy and love. These are the moments — and the traditions — that I know Pop was urging us to create. And it is one of the multitude of blessings that I’m thankful for not only on Thanksgiving but each and every day of the year.


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About Happiest Daddy

Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I'm one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.

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