My Thanksgivings

Happy Thanksgiving from the Midwest USA. Even with our wounds and opposing factions, we are still the land of the free, where people can gather and speak their mind without fear of retribution. We have a lot of growing up to do, and each one of us plays a part. We have so much for which to be thankful.

How do you image the ideal Thanksgiving day?

Freedom From Want, by Norman Rockwell, 1943

Freedom From Want, by Norman Rockwell, 1943

Want to know how Americans spend Thanksgiving day? Here are some thoughts, in no particular order of value:

  • Sharing a small feast with a few loved ones
  • Doing something completely different, grieving the recent loss of a loved one
  • In a gathering of unlikely friends brought together by common circumstances
  • In family gatherings that have strong loving bonds, where love and respect reign
  • Doing your best to just get through the day, this being the first Thanksgiving without a loved one
  • In family gatherings where people pretty much get along and have a good time
  • In family gatherings that include getting drunk and yelling at each other
  • Eating a real meal with all the fixings in a food kitchen
  • Watching football (American football that is)
  • Working… think hospitals, service industries
  • Spending the day quietly in solitude
  • Serving in a food kitchen
  • Ordering pizza

Which one(s) come closest to fitting you? Which one(s) appeal to you? Do you travel to be with family? To get away from family?

I've had, over my life, a number of different kinds of Thanksgivings:

  • From childhood to the year before my mother died in 1991:  We stayed "home" in Kansas City", reserving trips of our large family back to Chicago, city of my birth, for Christmas. The day started with watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade on television. Dad used an old fashioned grinder to create the traditional giblet stuffing. We would watch as eggs, bread, ground beef, turkey liver and gizzards oozed out into the catching bowl. Gross! Cool! The afternoon was filled with sounds of football games on TV and the tantalizing scent of roasting turkey. Later, table set with Bavarian china and sterling silver cutlery and our own traditional fixings, we would sit down to a candlelit dinner.
  • Two of those years, my at-the-time husband and I traveled to be with out of state family members. Once, his brother and wife, once my sister and her family. All in California. It felt strange to be away, yet I was mostly able to enjoy the change.
  • After mom died in 1991, the tradition shifted to my sister Kathleen's house. She and her husband Steve would host us for the next 25 years, hauling tables and chairs up from the basement and dishes etc down from the attic. Our gathering was larger now, as the family expanded, and there were often over twenty for dinner. Now the various side dishes and desserts were delegated out, and tables set up in various rooms to accommodate all the guests.
  • During my four years living and working in London, I did not return home for Thanksgiving. Instead, it was business as usual. With one exception. My UK colleagues were so thoughtful, wishing us ex pats "Happy Thanksgiving." This so touched my heart, and I never experienced a sense of homesickness. Plus, the office building in which I worked had a cafeteria, and the year they planned and served their understanding of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner remains one of my fondest memories.
  • Back in the USA I rejoined the family gatherings. Now, to help out, I would help my sister and nieces the night before as we set the tables. My job was, it seems - the designer. I choose which tablecloths would go on which table and I created the table décor from the assortment of Japanese maple leaves, berries, ornamental grasses and whatever else Kathleen's backyard would provide. Oh how lovely it all was!
  • During my year in the Middle East, it was again, business as usual. No attempt at traditional Thanksgiving fare. However, Qatar being an Islamic state, and the weekends consisting of Friday and Saturday, Thanksgiving held a TGIF sort of vibe.
  • Back in Kansas City again, the tradition continued, though it became apparent that the effort to pull together and clean up after such a massive gathering had become over-burdensome for our hosts, even with our help. So last year we held our last gathering there, sharing our gratitude for blessings received and memories made in the past 25 years.
  • Enter the rectory. This year a new tradition begins. Last night, my sister, nieces and I headed over to my brother's home. As pastor of three churches, he lives with fellow priests in a spacious rectory. Including a spacious dining room. We were able to set up tables for 18 in one room, decorate them beautifully with the harvest from Kathleen's yard, some traditional decorations, and an assortment of plates and cutlery, old and new.

Then we covered each table with a sheet, because two cats also live in the rectory. Smart move.

So that's it. Some of this may resonate with you. Or not. I'd love to hear your story in the comments. Share with me that for which you are most grateful. Share with me what hurts this Thanksgiving. I care. Are you healing from a loss, a trauma, an illness, and just making it through each day? Having lived through the darkest times, I understand. I can help you in your healing journey.

Which brings me to this beautiful blessing poem/prayer. One that perfectly expressed my feelings and experience during my first three years in London, the happiest years of my life. Then, as my anxiety and trauma took over, the prayer would be set aside.

How thankful I am to be able to proclaim it again in truth and love.

Autumn Equinox Blessing

My heart is the home of a banquet,

and so I sing a song of thanks

for all the gifts, talents, blessings and treasures

that fill my life to the fullest.

My life is a feast

that overflows with the delights of your presence.

In thanksgiving, I rejoice in that river of gifts

that flows from taste, smell, touch and sight.

May my life be an endless song of gratitude.

May this, my life song, be a magnet

that draws me ever closer to you, O Divine One,

who has whispered in the silent space of my heart

Words that speak the gift of gifts:

"You are my beloved."

Amen*

May blessings abound in your life. Most importantly, regardless of your circumstances, may you know that you are beloved. I look forward to meeting you in the comments.

*From Prayers for the Planetary Pilgrim by Fr Ed Hays, 1989

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