A friend reminded me that every day should be a day of giving thanks. Here is how that lesson came to me.
Thanksgiving for my husband, as a boy, meant large family gatherings with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins…adults and children celebrating, visiting, running around the private dining room of a nice hotel or restaurant. Later when the families moved further apart, it meant smaller gatherings where mothers and grandmothers cooked for days and the meal lasted an hour.
My family, in contrast, had migrated from the Midwest…a father, a mother, a son and a daughter. Thanksgiving day began with the selection and killing of an old laying hen past her prime. She was boiled until time to add vegetables and dumplings. When the meal was cooked, everyone sat down to a prayer of thanksgiving over chicken and dumplings and pumpkin pie.
In the first year of marriage, my husband and I also migrated away from family. We retained our separate expectations of what Thanksgiving would look like, smell like, taste like and above all, feel like, but somehow never talked about them. So, sitting down to chicken and dumplings shocked one of us. And it wasn’t because I short-cutted the whole chasing, chopping, plucking, singeing, butchering part…and bought the chicken at the store.
Over the years, my husband has continued to hope for a more elaborate celebration while I lean toward simple. His hope is for a feast with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, yams, green beans, cranberry relish, a couple kinds of pie and lots of people. Mine is a less complicated vision. Thanksgiving continued to provide ample opportunity for disappointment as our teenage children grew into that “eat and escape” stage. We tried inviting friends to our home for celebrations and I was cranky from all the days of preparation and clean up. We tried potluck Thanksgivings. We tried serving the Thanksgiving meal at the Rescue Mission as a family. One memorable year our son had been grounded for some infraction. He volunteered to cook the meal in trade for the grounding and we agreed. He was the most thankful for this Thanksgiving, as he finished cooking and left the house to join his friends.
Nothing seemed really satisfactory until two years ago. Our son and daughter were grown and living too far away to join us. I packed turkey and ham sandwiches, cranberry sauce, potato salad, pumpkin pie and Champagne into the picnic basket. We drove deep into the Owyhee desert, a place of solitude we both love and are thankful to have so close at hand. We enjoyed spotting hawks, pronghorn antelope, jackrabbits and watched for bighorn sheep. At noon we set up our feast. As we popped the cork and toasted the simple beauty that surrounded us, something shifted. In this grand and stark setting, we finally made the holiday ours.
with thanks to Judy Ware:-)