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Four Years at the Mount

Sophomore year

Family Pilgrimage

Kyle Ott

(11/2012) As time wears on, it has become harder and harder for people to appreciate (and in many cases remember) the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Itís easy to lose track of what is an ancient tradition for a country that is considered relatively young by the standards of the world. Yes, the autumn season is a time filled with college football games, roasting turkeys, steaming mashed potatoes and confetti-filled parades, but in many ways the true, miraculous nature of the holiday has been somewhat buried in all the pomp and circumstance.

Itís almost impossible to imagine the kinds of challenges those first pilgrims faced. According to first-hand accounts, the Mayflower was ridiculously overcrowded, with disease and filth running rampant through the cramped halls of the vessel. The New England coast proved to be a treacherous and in many cases inscrutable enemy as changing patterns of ice flows and stony bluffs created a deadly latticework surrounding the new land. Add to that the fact that the pilgrims were townsfolk unaccustomed to life in the wilderness and possessed little knowledge of how to hunt or forage, let alone build a town. It is nothing short of an outright act of God that these early settlers lived to make that first meal an American tradition. All these facts make the true meaning of the holiday more powerful. These were people who had defied the odds and the expectations of naysayers and continued to survive in a new and rugged world. It was a poignant moment where people, who had little in common but their struggles gathered to celebrate their friends, family, loved ones, and the cherished gift of life.

It is this kind of history that has sparked my own imagination and brought me on an interesting intellectual journey. Those early pilgrims were incredibly appreciative of the simple gifts that they recognized every single day, and it got me thinking: what am I truly thankful for in my life? I did quite a bit of pondering and as clichť as it sounds, I am truly thankful for my family. As the old adage goes, "we stand on the shoulders of giants," and Iíve been blessed with some particularly tall giants on which to perch. If there is one thing that I am truly appreciative of, itís the Thanksgiving tradition my family started many years ago.

Every year on Thanksgiving morning, my family rolls out of bed, bundles up in our warmest clothing and drives fifteen minutes away to New Oxford Pennsylvania for the annual Turkey Trot 5k race. When the tradition began, my brother and I were adamantly opposed to going to the race. We resented having to wake up early on a day when we were supposed to be sleeping in. We despised the early morning chill, and most of all, we hated taking a family picture in our matching Turkey Trot t-shirts. I can still vividly remember the first time we ran the Turkey Trot, freezing and miserable. Our mom was desperately trying to drag us to the finish line while simultaneously trying not to kill us. As years progressed, my parents gave up on making two stubborn young boys run the race and simply left us to our own devices, leaving us to slowly walk the distance to finish line.

As the years passed, we actually began to enjoy the annual run. We began going to a nearby Rutterís gas station (one of the only places open on Thanksgiving) for breakfast after the race. We would sit in the tiny eating area in the gas station and savor the taste of warm breakfast sandwiches and hash browns after the chilly morning of running. Kollin (my brother) and I would joke about how we, as two fit athletes, were the honorary rear guard of the race. We would make a game out of being dead last every single year. We would count the number of old ladies and mothers running with strollers who passed us. As we neared the finish line, we would sprint the last 15 yards of the race pumping our arms and singing the theme song from Rocky like we were champions. Our family began to appreciate the magnitude of the joke and as the officials were packing up the equipment at the finish line (yeah weíre that slow), our parents would be yelling at us to keep moving otherwise we would lose our substantial lead over the other competitors.

Now, when I think about Thanksgiving, it wouldnít be complete without running that simple 5k race, laughing with my family and eating breakfast food in a gas station. While I know itís not as amazing as a journey across the ocean in a crowded ship looking for freedom, that simple little journey over the road is in many ways a constant reminder of the love my family shares and a reminder of why Thanksgiving is truly meaningful. Iím Kyle Ott, wonít you sit and read for a while?

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