What happened to Thanksgiving? The day after Halloween, the shops beckon Christmas. Bannered and wreathed, carols chiming, retailers sell gingerbread lattes, sequined skirts, silky office party blouses, pre-wrapped gifts and anxiety disguised as cheer. A sixth of the year remains. It isn't time to close out the year. I don't want to rush.

The leaves are golden as I write this morning, and a milky fog stretches low. The lawn is green despite last week's storm. We've nearly forgotten that October snow sent us searching for the mittens, ice scrapers and sweaters that had shifted back in our closets behind the light things of summer. We gathered candles, flashlights and batteries and charged phones hoping our homes would remain lit and warm and watched flakes the size of quarters bury the jack o' lanterns.

I haven't been "home" for Thanksgiving since I moved east 15 years ago. Away from family, I've been able to consider my own traditions. I love to cook, but I don't always get to feed my loved ones on this holiday. But something quiet and profound has always happened when I have stopped to give thanks.

There have been beautiful years, such as the one when my daughter was born and we celebrated with extended family over a long table and a joyful feast all that was right in our lives that day. And there she was, a perfectly healthy baby girl asleep in her bassinet. On that day, it was easy to be grateful. And there have been years when everything was turned around and not at all as I had planned or hoped and gratitude for the simplest things was all I could muster.

I love hearing about Thanksgiving traditions and the ways that families make the holiday special. I also marvel at the stress that some people put on the preparation of the meal itself as if a burned crust symbolizes some deeper failure. Sometimes I wish that Thanksgiving had an organizing structure or a ceremony, more like Passover. But, it doesn't. There is nothing more required at Thanksgiving than we pause and feel grateful. And if that gratitude comes with cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes, that's lovely. And if you happen to be sitting at a table surrounded by the people you love, you are blessed.

There are years when we are missing someone or our lives have evolved in ways we didn't expect. There are years that we celebrate easily all that has gone well. Some years we transition to different stages of life, children move from the folding table and join the grown-ups, elders hand over tasks to their grown children. We bring new people into our lives and welcome them at our table. We laugh and struggle and eat too much. We put up with an irritating relative or a surly teenager. We put extra leaves in our tables and iron the tablecloth. Together, we take an evening, one day a year and we are truly and wholly grateful.

Krista Richards Mann is a Westport writer, and her "Well Intended" column appears every other Friday. She can be reached at: kristarichardsmann@gmail.com.