Thanksgiving has taken on extra meaning around our house ever since that Thanksgiving of 1995 when my wife, Cheryl, spent the holiday giving birth to our twin sons, Ross and Ben. Will was born in 1999 on an April day that is special just because it gave us Will. Every Thanksgiving since my wife and I became parents, I've used this Thanksgiving column as an annual listing of things from the last year for which we are thankful. Thanks for your indulgence.
My family gives thanks:
For the 100 hours spent together in the car with no cellphone interruptions while Ross and Ben completed the steps to earn their driver's licenses.
For the way those new matching dents in the front right fenders of our car and minivan make it easier to find the vehicles in a crowded parking lot.
For the way Will, cut last year in the first round of seventh-grade basketball tryouts, came back to make the eighth-grade varsity squad, and now can say that he plays on the same team that once featured NBA standouts Iman Shumpert and Evan Turner.
For the way Will's passion for baseball, soccer and basketball reminds us so much of his late Grandpa Willy.
For the way Ben's rendition of "Lucy and Linus" on the piano at the Jazz Showcase reminds us of how his late Uncle Bill used to play.
For that final visit from the Tooth Fairy.
For the end of braces for Ross, and the start of braces for Will.
For the way the pursuit of happiness shows in every moment of Ben's coed soccer games.
For the way Grandpa Paul let/made Ross and Ben learn how to drive with a stick shift in Lumpy, his 1935 Auburn with the rumble seat, and put up a basketball hoop for Will and his cousins.
For the way Grandma Jean makes the extra effort to see concerts, recitals and sporting events.
For Ross' road trips to the farm outside of Goodland, Ind., where he sometimes takes a friend or two but always takes his camera and manual typewriter.
For the way Grandma Lois enjoys those visits and gets an extra kick from Ross winning a film award with a piece that includes old family movies of me and my siblings interspersed with shots of Ross and his friends in a surprisingly empty and photographic downtown Goodland.
For passion, whether it is from Ross for making and watching movies, from Ben for music and science or from Will for sports and his friends.
For the seamless and graceful way my beautiful wife has evolved from a mom handling newborn twins with midnight feedings to a mom juggling the demands of three teenage boys and midnight pizzas.
For the way the fun of college visits to New York and Los Angeles mitigates the sorrow of knowing that our days of our family always being able to vacation together are numbered.
For our book club, aunts and uncles, neighbors and longtime friends who always support our kids and teach them the joys of good friendships.
For the way Ben (volunteer at the Field Museum) and Ross (tickets to Lollapalooza and Pitchfork music fests) are comfortable taking public transportation into the city, and Will can be left on his own at Wrigley Field.
For the way Will lets us frame the writing award he won for explaining how "The Sneetches" story by Dr. Seuss taught him something about life.
For the way Ben's enthusiasm for Latin and physics doesn't quash his boyish love of dinosaurs and video games.
For visits with East Coast cousins, Colorado cousins and Elgin cousins.
For the mature way our teenage boys handle relationships and lack of relationships.
For the way I can throw a hissy fit about chores not done, lights left on and milk left out, and then take comfort in the fact that I am the father of three teenage boys, and this is what I have to complain about.
For the realization that my wife and I kept our jobs during this recession, and Ross (film gigs and editing), Ben (baby-sitting, teaching oboe and working as a summer park district counselor) and Will (working as a soccer referee) also draw paychecks.
For hours when we can't watch TV because the sounds of piano, oboe or saxophone fill our house.
For moments such as our annual pilgrimage to Fountain Park Chautauqua, when three vastly different sons all want to do the same thing.
For those nights after frustrating days when Cheryl and I remind ourselves just how lucky we are.
For the way this column could be far longer and still provide leftover thanks.
On this Thanksgiving, my family hopes you and your loved ones can compose a similar cornucopia of thanks.