The table is set. The guests will soon arrive. Uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters, grandfathers and grandmothers, ex-husbands and wives, or maybe the step children, lots of significant others, newborns and toddlers, teens and tweens, neighbors and possibly even folks passing by on their way to an empty house or apartment, lured in by the smell of roasting turkey and the still warm pumpkin pie on the counter.
Smack dab in the middle of the dining room table sits the cornucopia, spilling out its contents, signifying the bounty ahead. That the veggies filling it are artificial may also signify an omen of what may soon follow.
It all starts out well. Well, that's not exactly true. Some bad feelings may actually begin in the car en route to the final destination, the seat at the table. Lord knows the competition for the best stuffing recipe began the day after Halloween and chances are that at least one picky eater will disassemble it from one corner of the plate to the other and ask, "What's THIS stuff?"
Thus the knock-the-stuffing-out-of-you begins. Though the early arrivals enter with their holiday faces plastered on, once the chairs scrape back across the floor, all bets are off. Aunt Cora chews with her mouth open, Uncle Bertrand tells the same lame anatomically perfect, lewd and lascivious jokes to a wincing audience. Mother Addie's hearing aids whistle and whine every time she reaches for the mashed potatoes. Elder son's significant other announces she is a Vegan, a SERIOUS Vegan and casts the first stone by offering up a prayer for the lost soul of the turkey unnecessarily sacrificed for no darned good reason.
Martha, chief of the Nursing Earth Mother vigilantes, bares her not-a-turkey breast while her five year old paces back and forth between her legs, dipping his free hands into the cranberry sauce to finger paint his name on the tablecloth. Good Neighbor Sally, who sees the positive in any situation, praises the red fingered savant, as she drains the last of her third Whiskey Sours and sucks on the stem of the maraschino cherry at the bottom of the glass.
Terrible Tommy the two year old picks his nose,
and you know how the rest of it goes.
Out in the kitchen, an electrical disaster is narrowly avoided at the last second, when Great Grandma gets too close to the microwave and her pacemaker beeps a warning. Too many women in the kitchen, elbowing each other for counter space, while wiping the not so feminine sweat off their foreheads. The gravy is clumping, the potatoes are lumping, and egos are bumping. The only thread that binds these women together is the sacred Thanksgiving Oath they have all sworn to that dinner will be served HOT. Steaming, piping, tongue burning, eyes watering HOT.
At the table, once the turkey lands on the platter, the drama continues. White meat or dark? Pass the...pass the...can I have the...I haven't had the...where's the...who forgot the...sniping.
But the final battle awaits. The battle for the turkey leg.
Perhaps it is this way at your house and I can share a worthwhile Martha Stewart pointer. A tiny piece of advice. When it comes to the turkey leg, we ALWAYS defer to the cousin sitting at the card table alone in the corner of the den. The one with the ring of tattoos around his neck. The one who was just released from PRISON.
And at this very moment, when I know that appetites are sated, belt buckles undone, zippers unzipped, and feet resting on the edge of the coffee table while arms reach for the remote, I give thanks.
For the sweet, sleep inducing drug that will result in the truly traditional, truly blessed, post turkey coma.
So I stand, finally alone in my kitchen, hidden by the piles of pots and plates and recite the Thanksgiving story. The true, politically correct and hysterically accurate rendition of the first Thanksgiving Feast.
I give thanks to those women of the Wampanoag Tribe, the Native Americans, who warmly welcomed the Women of Plymouth. Sisters in the Sisterhood of the Garden. Celebrating the bounty of the Earth is not just a custom of the Americas, but a recognized ritual celebrated around the world by those ever grateful for the second helpings of the harvest.
In fact, maize, beans and squash are called the Three Sisters.
Do not think for a minute that those women were relegated to setting the table and washing the dishes. The Wampanoag Women and the Pilgrim Women stood shoulder to shoulder giving thanks.
No silverware. No cookies, cakes, nor pies.
No fancy ovens.
Food for the Soul.
Here's where I put my foot down. I've heard the folklore about what happened that day. It might not have been November, but it was cold outside. There might have been venison instead of turkey, plums, grapes and dried fruit instead of pie.
It might even be true that they didn't pass the food around, that the social pecking order determined your place at the table and those on the lower rung of the social ladder ended up with a bowl of stewed pumpkin.
This I know to be true.
It was a celebration.
A giving of thanks.
A joining of hands.
Heads bowed or faces turned to the sky, and in each and every heart, the simple and elegant words of grace.
How they did it without Tryptophan is beyond me.
But as I gaze out over the mass of bodies snuggled close on the couch, spread out face down on the floor, cuddled together on the carpet, pretending to be watching a football game blaring on the TV, I am grateful for my family. Not just for my family gathered here in my home, but for each and every family, not only HERE but THERE.
Thanksgiving is not just an American tradition.
It is not a new idea or a badly worn tale.
Thanksgiving is for the bounty of the harvest, the celebration of our seasons, the endless efforts we make from seed to table, and the spirit of gathering together in us all.
We gather together to ask for a blessing.
And to say...
In my most humble way...
I wish you all...
Blessings From The Garden.