It’s no secret to those that really know me … thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. Not because of anything to do with Indians, Turkeys, Pilgrims or such … but because it is a day set aside to count our blessings. Gratitude and appreciation are my favorite activities on most any day of the year …. There is no limit to what the universe will provide if we but ask, look, and accept. It’s also a day of sharing …. Laughter, love and joy. In the US, it’s a small pause between the insanity of the Hallmark-driven uni-holiday season that begins shortly after 4th of July and really doesn’t let up for a breather until after the January white sales finish. A time of gathering with friends, family or loved ones … or of gathering in service to others so they may enjoy a time of sharing.
My brother and I were always up at the crack of dark to watch the test pattern on television, ready and primed for the Macy’s thanksgiving parade to tune in right on cue, with the volume WAY down since our parents slept in. Tradition at its finest, starting at a very young age.
Sports games are fare for many … but in the family I shared many thanksgivings with, sports were an almost non-existent deal. Rather, that little break between the main event and the repeat, lighter supper, was a time for the weary and those in full food coma to “repair to the chair or sofa” and have a little sinking spell, while the oldest cousin took the rest of us to the not-every-year-treat of a movie. We always had that hope. We’d return to find everybody squeezed into the super-small family social center (kitchen) gabbing away. Who knew there was so much to discuss … and the family stories and tales told on each other knit the pages of a memory book fit for generations to come.
Like many families of similar stature in the working class, our fare was relatively simple for our everyday lives … our own Blue Plate Special of real food, although by preference and choice, the simpler style of beans and corn bread was no stranger to the supper table in our homes. Meals were family events. Even as high school graduation approached, one nearly had to have a written hall pass or dispensation from the Pope Himself (and we were not Catholic) to be excused from that ritual.
For Thanksgiving, nothing short of a miracle happened …. we had choices on choices as grandmother and aunt, with those contributing dishes, would lay a feast for all to enjoy. Not just mashed potatoes and 2 kinds of gravy (turkey and white cream), but mashed potato salad, too. Three kinds of pie – plus the sweet potato pie. Sometimes a chocolate iced or red velvet cake. Salads, vegetables, dressings (cornbread, with sausage and sometimes bread dressing with sage), even bread pudding every year or two. The distinctive savory seasoning theme was bacon drippings in all the key dishes – from cornbread to snap beans. A huge table and all the family gathered, with card tables annexed into the kitchen for the children, though some of us sitting there did so well into young adulthood as the family grew. The hidden secret of the preparation, I am certain, long discovered after the fact, was that the cooking was sufficient for the main meal, the lighter supper and boxed goodies to go home with all … sufficient to tide through the long weekend. The best part for me was the gathering … and the stories … and the times a non-local relative would choose to thanksgiving with all of us together. Even better stories!
And in all of this we would give thanks.
As the years vanished from the calendar of my life, I found many opportunities to share this day with other families that included me. Some due to relationships …. And some who just took in the extras (or maybe by then we were just the strays) who really had no place to be on that special day. Other years, I would visit a sibling, a friend, or volunteer to serve meals at the local soup kitchen. And every now and again, it would just be me alone, making my own day and practice … singing a service with a huge choir, or gathering with a group for a pot luck gathering of the Vegetarian Society for a no-turkey buffet, with tofu cheesecake. Always a special day for me, because it’s also the one day I get out ALL the stories I can remember and re-examine them one by one for the new nuggets of wisdom that will sometimes punch through.
In the mid-eighties, I came to the conclusion that Pastor Mark hit the nail squarely on the head when he pointed out the blinding flash of the obvious. We need to play bigger. Rather than having one day a year of Thanksgiving, we needed to change it up in a big way. Make every day a day of Thanks-Living. And then celebrate the whole kit and caboodle on this special day.
Your challenge for the day – what are your best memories of things for which you are grateful? Take a moment each day to list your top ten, even before your feet hit the floor in the morning. It will change the way your day reveals itself and shift your mood to one of being in the moment. And help you transform yourself in an attitude of gratitude that simply is thanksLIVING!