Thursday, November 25, 2010

A thousand years of gratitude

Thanksgiving day has got to be one of the quietest days of the year, at least here in New England.  The fall foliage has been shed and the trees are bare.  You can see through the woods now, which is something that I have always found attractive for some reason. I just went for a walk around Wilson farm, just up Castle lane.  It was most serene out there.  Quieter than after a snow storm.  And a bit lonely. Everyone was indoors enjoying their turkey with family and friends. Except me... and all of the rest of the world.
In Italy, as well as everywhere else on the globe, this was just another Thursday.  So, why was I so sad?
I like Thanksgiving... It's my favorite holiday.  It exudes a certain peace and tranquility, a hominess and coziness, unadulterated by mass consumerism. It's a purer holiday and a more introspective holiday, unattached to specific creeds and unassailed by mandatory gift-giving and guilt-induced behaviors.  It's about family and friends. And food.  Lots of food.  Soporiferous food.
We had a great thanksgiving dinner in Venice last Thursday.  As is now customary, the 27 WPI students pooled their resources and produced a veritable feast at the Settemari clubhouse.  It was succulent.  The best yet -- as we say every year...  We were blessed by the presence of three generations of the Cocola family, with Jim's father and son Milo there together, with mother and grandmother as well.  I think this will be a memorable Thanksgiving for the Cocola family for years to come, even though Milo may not be old enough to really remember it later in life.
The day after this early celebration, I flew back to the US from Venice as I do every year, while the VPC students take their Thanksgiving break by flying all over Europe, from Ireland to Greece, to Spain and Germany and everything in-between.  Meanwhile, I just got done interviewing the students who will join WPI music professor Fred Bianchi and myself in Venice next fall. I expect we will have some interesting interactive musical projects in Venice next year!  I look forward to it.  I accepted 32 students (out of 48), and had to reject 16. I also interviewed and accepted all of the Santa Fe applicants, and co-advisor (and friend) Prof. Guillermo Salazar will help select the remaining 12 WPI students going to Santa Fe in the spring of 2012.
Last year, I had avoided Thanksgiving altogether, by flying to the UK after the WPI interviews to spend time with Adrian and his family in Oxford.  This year I had been invited by Natalie and Dave to spend Thanksgiving at their house in Paxton, but I also had the option of accompanying Nick to Thanksgiving with his mother and grandparents in Connecticut.  After some discussion and introspection I had agreed to join Nick in Connecticut with Jackie, her mother Ellie, grandmother and granddaughter Irenes, as well as Jackie's siblings Ken, Jim and Leslie, with their respective spouses.  As seems customary in my family, Nick and I couldn't get our act together quickly enough to make it to CT in time for the family dinner.  So, I decided to abort the mission and sent Nick to show up late for the meal "by shelp".  I regretted it afterwards, but I guess this type of family reunion is just too much for me to handle, still.  Too many memories...  Jackie stopped by later and we made plans to spend Christmas together as a family to make up for this year's debacle.
I am grateful for this thanksgiving holiday this year.  It has shown me again -- as if I needed confirmation -- what truly matters to me most.  Family and friends are indeed our greatest treasures.  As I already had a chance to write before, and even though I have expressed my gratitude to my family, mentors and friends from time to time, giving thanks is a habit that one must practice continuously, relentlessly and authentically.  Indeed, as the cartoon above says, one day a year is hardly enough to cover the thousands of thanks we ought to be profusing on our fellow men and women on a daily basis.
So, thank you all, Nick and Jackie, friends and family, colleagues and students, partners and mentors for all you have done to make my world what it is... which is great indeed.

Grazie Mille!

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