I’m remembering Thanksgivings Past on this Thanksgiving Eve.
My husband’s family came to town in 2004, and I was the cook. I wanted everything to be perfect-perfect-perfect. It was disturbing. I was disturbing.
I did the whole maniac Thanksgiving routine. I got up at some wee hour to put the turkey in. I fixed an elaborate breakfast. I had the rest of the day timed out, when to put the pies in, the stuffing, the green bean casserole, all with military precision, but the stupid bird would not cooperate. We ended up eating an hour later than I’d planned, and I was furious.
By the time we sat down to eat I was so exhausted that I couldn’t enjoy the meal. All I have to show for it all is a photo I took of a perfectly set table.
How ironic. It’s supposed to be a day of Thanksgiving, remembering all of God’s gifts and basking in the knowledge of God’s love in giving those gifts, but I got stuck thinking that I had to manufacture the warm feelings. I convinced myself that it was all about what I had to accomplish and not about what God had already accomplished for me.
I saw a piece last night on the evening news about the growing number of friendsgivings that millennials are celebrating. We’re free to be ourselves, they said when interviewed. There’s not all the expectation.
What if we all gave up our overwrought expectations of Thanksgiving and just enjoyed the day? What if we all simply stopped long to bask in the knowledge of God’s love and provision, even in—especially—in the hard times? What if we all just enjoyed ourselves a little bit more?
You know, the best Thanksgiving I remember as a child was the year after my dad lost both his jobs. It was 1979. Somehow still, we ended up collecting every stray person from our neighborhood. Twenty-two people came over for dinner, and we didn’t have a big house. We certainly didn’t have a space at the table for 22 people, so 10 of us ate at the dining room table, and the other 12 people ate off a ping pong table that my dad set up in the living room. My sister was getting over a bad break up and invited the first cowboy she could find. He got drunk on my father’s Blue Nun table wine and tried to play hopscotch in the front yard with me. He was fine until he leaned over to pick up the stone in the third square. He fell over. I won. My sister drove him home and never saw him again.
For that free Grace bringing us past great risks
& thro’ great griefs surviving to this feast
sober & still, with the children unborn and born,
among brave friends, Lord, we stand again in debt
and find ourselves in the glad position: Gratitude.
(John Berryman, from “A Minnesota Thanksgiving”)