Denver Bar Association
November 1999
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Annual Sappy Thanksgiving Essay

by Doug McQuiston


I have written before in this space about what I am thankful for. Most often, it has something to do with my kids, or that my wife still puts up with me after all these years. This year is no exception, so indulge me.

This fall, my wife and I had the amazing experience of taking our son, Matt, up to college at the University of Colorado. It was strange, walking the same paths through the campus Susan and I both attended 25 years earlier. Now settled as a freshman, he loves it there. I am thankful, beyond measure.

I am thankful because Matt is going to my alma mater. Better yet, he is trudging the same halls not just as his mom and dad did, but his grandfather, grandmother, uncle, cousin, and even great-grandfather did. He is embarking on a new chapter in a family tradition that stretches back (on his mom’s side) to before the turn of the century.

I am thankful because unlike my life there, he can enjoy everything the University, and the Magic Kingdom of Boulder, have to offer, in and out of the classroom.

Although he worked hard last summer for spending money, he doesn’t have to work during the school year. His days can be filled with class, squash games at the Student Rec Center, study sessions at Norlin Library and fly-fishing. His autumn Saturdays will be taken up with football games at Folsom Field.

I think I am enjoying my son’s college life almost as much as he is. I smile when I hear about his excursions with the Flyfishing Club, his planned trips with the Ski Club and even his late nights reading or writing papers. Deep in those late nights studying he may not realize it, but he has a rare chance to shape his future, not be shaped by his past. His is a world of endless possibilities, not defined limits.

I never noticed what I was missing when I was there, because there was no time. Twenty-five years ago, I had only the goals of completing college as fast as I could, getting into law school, getting the license and going to work. There was no time or money for campus parties or football.

Looking back, I see the half of the University I never took advantage of. It is that half I see Matt living now, and it makes me unyieldingly happy. I never thought I’d say this, but even writing the check for his books (an amount in one semester I probably didn’t spend in the entire four years I attended CU), made me smile. To know he’d have every book he needed, rather than having to scrounge through Norlin Library, was worth every penny. Even when he gets out, things will be different, better. He won’t be saddled with a debt that will take years to pay off.

It’s the same college I attended, but nothing will be the same for him as it was for me. That is a good thing, and one of many things I am thankful for this year. I’m thankful that my children have two parents who love them. I’m even more thankful for how much they love us back. I’m thankful for the hope my children give me, just by how they are living their lives. I’m thankful Matt is "away at school," but still close enough that we can go up to Boulder to have dinner with him.

When I attended CU, I sustained myself with dreams of how someday I would be a practicing lawyer, that my kids could go to college without having to work their way through. I dreamed I would have a happy marriage to someone I could laugh with. I even dreamed that someday my kids might go to the same college I attended. It is in many ways a mystery how, but the dreams have come true.

But no Thanksgiving story would be complete without a prayer at the end. Here’s mine:

I pray: that my children will live every minute of their futures; that they will never let money get in the way of their dreams; that they will benefit from our guidance, but find their own paths; that they will stay as true, as strong and as light-hearted as they are now; that they will never lose their humor; that they will find work they love to do, and do it for as long as they can; and that they will find someone to marry with whom they can have half as much fun as I have.

Oh, one more thing—I pray they find a way to finance graduate school on their own.

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