Patterico's Pontifications


Happy Thanksgiving

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:15 pm

[As I have done before, I am reprinting the post below from 2006, about a mental exercise I sometimes employ to help me appreciate the good things in my life. Many people have written me to say that they have given their loved ones an extra hug after reading the post.

Even if you’re going through a rough time, there are no doubt positive aspects of your life that you won’t be able to count on forever. Hopefully this post will help you not to take those things for granted. Happy Thanksgiving.]

I’ve discovered a way to bring a new perspective to your life.

To explain it, I have to tell a little story.

Driving home Friday night, I was remembering a time years ago, when my daughter Lauren (now six years old) was in her first year. An old friend of mine was coming to town, and we went with my wife to see a Glen Phillips solo acoustic concert down near San Diego.

We were very excited to see the show. But for some reason, we couldn’t get a babysitter. So we decided to take Lauren. Since it was just an acoustic show, we hoped that she’d sleep peacefully on my lap. If, during the show, she got upset, I would take her out to the car. Thereafter, my wife and I would take turns watching her in the car.

Lauren was asleep when the concert began — but she awoke, crying, five seconds into the first song. It was louder than we had thought it would be. I hurriedly took her to the car, which was parked on the street about half a block away.

Once I had her out there, I never brought her back inside the club. Although part of me wanted to be back inside watching the concert, I was also having fun being with my daughter — at times talking to her when she was awake, and at times watching her sleep. Plus, I wanted to let my wife see the whole concert. I figured there was no reason to interrupt her enjoyment if I was having a perfectly good time.

It wasn’t so much that I preferred to be with my daughter than to watch a concert. I just didn’t mind staying out with her in the car.

Thinking about this the other night, I asked myself: Patrick, if you could go back to that night, right now, and either stay out in the car with Lauren, or be inside and watch the concert — which would you do?

And of course the answer was obvious.

The night it happened, I didn’t mind being in the car with my daughter. But if I could go back now, there’s no question that I would want to be there.

Not only would I stay in the car with her — I would make the most of the experience, realizing that I had a precious chance to see her at that age again. I would try to commit every moment to memory.

And then I realized: some day, years in the future, I might be asking the same question about my life today — this very minute. If you could have this moment back to live over again, what would you do?

The rest of that evening, I pictured myself as having been sent into my body from the future, to relive the moments I was experiencing. And I saw everything differently. I sat on the couch and watched television with my arm around my wife — all the while imagining myself as an old man, transported back in time to relive that moment. And all of a sudden, what otherwise might have seemed like a mundane moment seemed like a privilege. I felt like the luckiest guy in the world, just sitting there with my wife.

I’ve tried the trick all weekend, and it really changes your outlook. Just sitting around with a sleepy child in your arms is great any way you look at it. But if you picture yourself as someone whose child has grown up — if you imagine yourself as an older man, who would give the world to be back in that chair with that child in his arms — it makes you realize how important the moment is. And you appreciate it more.

Like any epiphany, I know that this will pass, to be remembered only from time to time. I hope I remember it often, when routine is wearing on me.

But there are times I actively need to forget it, because this outlook promotes a sort of hedonism. For example, right now, I need to clean the house — but that’s not really what I would choose to do if I were sent here from the future.

Oh, well. I’m going to clean up anyway. I think the guy from the future would understand — sometimes, you just gotta do what you gotta do. I can hear my future self in my head right now. He says to make a nice cup of coffee and put on some music while I do it, and take some breaks to play with the kids. Enjoy the chores as well as the easy and fun moments, I hear him saying. Some day, you’ll miss even the chores. Some day, you’ll miss almost everything about your life the way it is right now.

33 Responses to “Happy Thanksgiving”

  1. By the way, I can now upload images and can now do that post I wanted to do. But I think I’ll save it until tomorrow.

    Today is a day for being thankful.

    In that vein, my thanks go out to the Admin Guy who has been helping me with the site. We have a new server, Recent Comments are back, and don’t these comments look cool?

    Patterico (43b036)

  2. there’s a country music song in there

    happyfeet (fc9387)

  3. Oh, I guess the funky font is Admin Guy’s way of separating my comments from other people’s.

    I think we’ll come up with a different way to do it than this. We’ve talked about a different color background for my comments. Not sure which color to use…

    Patterico (43b036)

  4. He made you all italic … he must harbor a secret resentment against you, Patterico.

    SPQR (768505)

  5. I don’t know…italics can be used to make something distinct from text and to stand out…. Perhaps a stretch, but it seems appropriate that you, of all commenters, should be in italics. Happy Thanksgiving, Patterico. Thanks for all you do here.

    Dana (292dcf)

  6. Happy Turkey Day from Park City. Utah.

    JD (73d5d3)

  7. I had overnight visitation with my daughter, then mama picked her up for Thanksgiving dinner. We shared movies and TV shows, pizza, burgers, and Cheetos. I’m thankful enough for that.

    nk (875f57)

  8. Chocolate chip pancakes, too. 😉

    nk (875f57)

  9. When my oldest son was about three, I was planning to take him with us on a trip to the Sierras. Before we went, however, I wanted to see how he would do sleeping outside in a tent and the whole wilderness thing. So I took him with me up to the Crystal Lake campground in the San Gabriel Mountains. It was just the two of us and I cooked dinner on a Coleman stove, then we slept in a tent. The next morning, we ate breakfast, then drove home. He did well, so a couple of weeks later we made our Sierras trip.

    He has gone with me all over the world, including sailing to Hawaii when he was 16 but, for some reason, he remembers that overnight camping trip as best of all. I should have done more of those dad and son things with him when he was little. I was busy and we did lots of things as a family but the time we spent as just two of us stuck with him the best. I should have done more of that. He is 47 now and, if I mention that weekend tonight at Thanksgiving dinner, I’m sure he will remember it well.

    Mike K (326cba)

  10. don’t make me cry I’m in public

    happyfeet (e6cae3)

  11. Patrick, the youngest of my two daughters is 41 now. As a young lawyer working hard in a big law firm in San Diego, I spent many nights in the office working until 9 or 10. My wife would go over to her mother’s place for dinner and conversation—and I’d pick them up on my way home. I can still recall holding one or the other of my infant daughters in my arms as we drove home to our place. These days the PC police would be on us for not having the child in a rearward facing car seat. But the pleasant memory of those more innocent times remains.

    Comanche Voter (29e1a6)

  12. Blue is a good color, but it is also the color of hyperlinks.

    Sammy Finkelman (4da72c)

  13. Maybe a very subtle yellow?

    Patterico (e27edc)

  14. Very thoughful post, Patrick. Thanks for sharing. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

    Amalgamated Cliff Divers, Local 157 (721840)

  15. Here’s a tune for your significant other:
    I’ve Got A Crush On You. Seems appropriate for a post of this nature.

    Amalgamated Cliff Divers, Local 157 (721840)

  16. I am that older man,alone this Thanksgiving–and I still can cry.

    Jim Millican (ee747d)

  17. Everyone, have the happiest of Thanksgivings! I’m preparing to dine, and gratitude makes everything that much better.

    Bradley J. Fikes (a15628)

  18. Wonderful tale that deserves telling at least every year. Time and tides don’t wait.

    How about a box around your comment’s color background, rather than a different color or typestyle? That will let you use the whole array of text features. It’s something like “border:2px dashed blue;”.

    htom (412a17)

  19. if it ain’t broke don’t fix it is my feeling about formatting but nobody ever asks me

    happyfeet (e6cae3)

  20. Patrick, Thanks for helping me reflect on precious times with my daughters.

    mg (31009b)

  21. Thank you for reprinting this. I couldn’t for the life of me remember where I’d read it before.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

    bobby (f7407a)

  22. {reminsicent *sniff*}

    Alasdair (2cd241)

  23. Dennis the Menace comic in newspaper for November 8, 2012:

    Dennis is walking to the left of someone older walking (who is carrying a chocolate ice cream cone)



    Sammy Finkelman (4da72c)

  24. some day, years in the future, I might be asking the same question about my life today

    I feel like 2012 is more of a date in the future, rather than the past.

    Sammy Finkelman (4da72c)

  25. Sound advice. You might be just a wee little tad more in tune with life than I, but its leaking thru.

    gary gulrud (dd7d4e)

  26. right now, I need to clean the house — but that’s not really what I would choose to do if I were sent here from the future.

    It depends on how long you are going to stay.

    But if you were going to stay a week, ten days, two weeks, a month or more, and you wouldn’t do it, why do it now??

    Once a year maybe? Or less?

    Sammy Finkelman (4da72c)

  27. You could anyway take week long vacations from cleaning.

    Sammy Finkelman (4da72c)

  28. This post hit home.

    My wife passed away one year ago today. What I wouldn’t give to be able to go back several years and relive the days with her, when she was in good health and enjoyed life.

    It is true: you don’t know what you have until you lose it. Cherish every moment with your family, for tomorrow those moments will be gone forever.

    navyvet (02dd07)

  29. This is my first Thanksgiving since my mother died. My father and brother are spending a few days with me, my wife, and two kids. I have tons of grading to do, but I am cherishing these times with my family, and storing them up in my memory banks.

    My sons don’t yet see why this is important. They will, later.

    Simon Jester (8f498f)

  30. Great story Pat.

    Happy Thanksgiving. :)

    Patrick in Michigan (7b58f8)

  31. Heck, yea!


    Patterico’s forum no longer is a peculiar outlier in the world of message boards.

    I recall when I first came across this site several years ago, I was so put off by the graphic interface that I pulled back and didn’t bother posting for quite awhile.

    My eyes say: Thank you!

    Mark (52bc92)

  32. If you could have this moment back to live over again, what would you do?

    I think that’s a big reason one of my all-time favorite movies is “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray.

    I recall someone saying that people’s sense of time is influenced by how much of a ratio of 10 years (ie, a decade) represents their entire lifetime. IOW, to a 5-year-old, 10 years is twice his lifetime, to a 10-year-old, it’s his entire lifetime, to a 20-year-old, it’s one-half his lifetime, to a 30-year-old, it’s one-third of his lifetime. And so on and so forth.

    Mark (52bc92)

  33. 31. Comment by Mark (52bc92) — 11/23/2012 @ 7:24 am

    My eyes say: Thank you!

    I liked it better the other way..

    But then maybe I am very conservative. I was onmce accused of being very conservative for preferring a bell (in school) to a whistle. (they had changed it)

    I could always distinguish between commments.

    Overall, the change is not destructive.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

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