Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving

From the first year of our marriage, Thanksgiving took on a different feel each year. The first year, we "borrowed" my little brother, and had a picnic on the beach in Naples, Florida. Then we went to play on a water slide. When our own kids were small, I cooked for a week, with them playing on the floor at my feet in our tiny kitchen. I made my own stuffing, special rolls that took two days to make, pies, everything I could think of. We invited all of the family plus a recent widow from church. The day turned bitter cold, highly unusual for Southwest Florida, so we had to bring in space heaters. I remember my little boy being so puzzled when he overheard me saying we needed an extra leaf in the table to fit everyone around it. He finally caught ahold of my skirt to ask, "Mommy, how will putting leaves on the table make it bigger?"

That was a lovely meal. I put kernels of corn on each plate, and then passed a basket around. Each person said what they were thankful for as they put a kernel of corn in the basket. All of us had a hard year that year, but we all found something to be thankful to God for also. It reminded me of what the first Thanksgiving must have been like, when the settlers had barely survived the year and had winter coming in fast.

One year my husband's Grandmother made the trip down from Indiana and we all went and had a picnic in the park, then played games. She seemed so delighted, and couldn't wait to go back up north and tell her friends how she'd spent Thanksgiving on a beautiful Florida day. My husband's Aunt Ruth spent her very last Thanksgiving meal with us; I used the special dishes she had given us. She was so happy, her eyes were sparkling.

When the kids were old enough, we began volunteering at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving day. I'd put chili in the crock pot for our meal, or we'd have taco salad when we came home, exhausted from serving hundreds of turkey dinners to grateful, hungry people. The boys were assigned something like cutting the pies; they worked hard, and so cheerfully.

At some point the boys decided they wanted a big, traditional family dinner. I still have some of the name cards they made for each family member's plate, complete with drawings of Indians, pilgrims or turkeys. They each had their favorite foods, which I would try to incorporate; this led to a really big menu! It didn't help any that one didn't like turkey, only chicken; hubby only liked ham. Some like pumpkin pie, others only apple. I just make it all.

I learned to make amazing rolls, but could never get the hang of gravy. One year when the boys were old enough, they went to KFC to buy gravy for our Thanksgiving meal. It became part of family lore when they related that the young clerk had asked them whether the gravy was "for here, or to go?" One admitted he'd almost said "We'll have it here. Do you have straws?"The one son who doesn't like any gravy but white has learned to make his own.

Even my son's cat, Patience, tried to help. I was cooking away one Thanksgiving morn, when I heard a sort of strangled sound behind me. I turned to look, and the cat, looking like a little Pilgrim maid in her black and white coat, proudly laid a squirrel down at my feet. She seemed quite startled and upset when I screamed! She snatched up her gift and began running all over the house with it. Later, she tried again, with a lizard!

Now we usually have a big, family meal with the grandparents invited, and they pitch in with some dishes. One year our oven quit working the week of Thanksgiving. I did all my cooking in a toaster oven, while my mother-in-law roasted the turkey. That actually worked out pretty well! Another year when our son was remodeling our kitchen and miscalculated the timing of some repairs, I had no kitchen sink, no running water, and a huge mess. We all got to work and pulled off the meal that time, too. I think that was the year my son and husband spontaneously decided to cut a large "window" in the wall between the kitchen and living room hours before Thanksgiving dinner. I had mixed feelings. I had wanted that window through there for years; but not necessarily on Thanksgiving day! But it let so much light and air in to the kitchen, and I wasn't isolated. I ended up truly thankful for that window.

I am busily cooking and baking this year's meal. It isn't that hard to plan, because even though I'd love to make something different every year, no one will go for that. Well, actually, they don't care if I make new stuff - as long as I make all the old stuff too! So I'll probably just stick to the same old things, tried and true, beloved and anticipated. That's okay, though. Some things never change. Like the love of family. Like the gratitude we have to Almighty God for His provision throughout another year. As this Thanksgiving of 2009 approaches, I am most thankful to be His child. He has provided all of my blessings, and He is the best blessing of all. Happy Thanksgiving, and may the Lord make us truly thankful.

12 comments:

gwentman said...

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Islandsparrow said...

You've had some very interesting Thanksgiving days! The window going in on Thanksgiving?? Hmm - you did well to feel thankful about that :) My kids like all t he traditional things too - if I want to do new I add them rather than subtract old. It an get to be quite a bit of work but thankfully leftovers are good!

A very Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Cherdecor said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. I love reading about other people's Thanksgivings. Your son's question about a leaf making your table larger was just the best! Children are so sweet. Thanks for sharing this post. I loved it!

Protege said...

I simply love the way you write. Your posts I always read from the beginning to the end and I savor each word. You write with such an ease, yet so beautifully conveying the feelings and the atmosphere of the story(ies).
I loved reading about the Thanksgivings of your past. It is very clear that you have a lovely family. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours all the way from Denmark,
xo
Zuzana

Connie said...

Loved reading this "again" :) Happy Thanksgiving!

nikkipolani said...

It's interesting to see how your holiday traditions have evolved. I think mine has, too. But with a smaller family and fewer extendeds nearby, it's not too difficult to make adjustments. Though my dad is adamant about TURKEY for Thanksgiving.

Sassy Granny ... said...

Isn't it fabulous how each and every one of us marks our Thanksgiving days with such unique traditions of our own? I do believe it's my favorite of all the holidays, HOLY days.

May you and yours be especially blessed this season.

Kathleen

Susan said...

yes ... my mom tried "new stuff" one year and no one was very happy about that. Tradition reigns at Thanksgiving!! I wish you and your family and wonderful holiday. So glad to have "met" you this year!

jenniferw said...

The happiest of Thanksgivings to you this year, Tracie darling!

rhymeswithplague said...

Happy Thanksgiving from very chilly north Georgia to warm and sunny (or rainy?) Southwest Florida!

I enjoyed reading about your past Thanksgivings. Call me crazy, but I don't think I want to pray "Lord, make us truly thankful" -- because he would do it, not by showing us how bad some other people have it, but by bringing us lower and lower. Our pastor says, "Some people don't know Jesus is all they need until they get to the place where He's all they have."

Not criticizing your excellent post in any way! I just had a different take on the ending!

Precious Gems said...

Happy Thanksgiving and may God bless you abundantly :)

Merle said...

Dear Tracie ~~ I enjoyed your great post about Thanksgivings of the past.
I hope this latest one was wonderful
for you and your family.
I would like to wish you a very Happy Birthday for tomorrow 30th Nov.
Have a lovely day and celebrate your special day. Take care my friend.
Love, Merle.

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