Thanksgiving is for Sharing
Thanksgiving is a multi-sensory and multi-cultural opportunity.
Let me start the conversation! I have a rich collection of memories of special Thanksgivings from my youth.
What did a typical Thanksgiving Day look like for me? My mother and my Aunt alternated ‘hosting’ the Thanksgiving celebration. One year at my house, the next at my Aunt’s. The table was the focal point. A crisp, white, freshly pressed, linen tablecloth with napkins. There were wine glasses for the adults and water glasses sparkling at each place setting. Holidays always showcased the sterling tableware. The family china was proudly displayed. Always a centerpiece of fall colors…a cornucopia spilling with pumpkins, squashes, corn cobs and fall leaves. To create the ambience, beautiful candle tapers in glistening crystal candle holders. The table had been extended so all could sit. I don’t remember a ‘children’s table.’
What were the smells of Thanksgiving? The most wonderful mix of sweet and savory greeted our noses. A turkey slow roasting in the oven since early morning and the faint hint of spice from the pumpkin pie that had been baked earlier. As the meal grew closer, add the aroma of mashed potatoes and the scent of sweet potatoes with marshmallows, and last but not least was the sage, celery, and onion aroma of dressing. Add gravy and hot rolls and you knew it was time to head to the table. We had one added tradition that became an acquired taste as we grew from childhood to adulthood. This was the side casserole of scalloped oysters. Yes, I actually grew to love this dish.
What did Thanksgiving sound like? The conversation usually began with stories to catch everyone up on recent activities we had all experienced. Work, friends, school were all included. I was always intrigued to hear of the experiences of the many generations in the room that day. Many family traditions were topics shared. I learned many things about my family heritage that were German and Scandinavian in origin. Resourceful and frugal are words that come to mind. The method of child rearing by the adults was stern and disciplined. Children were to respect their elders at all times. Many of my ancestors were farmers and tradesmen who had to work hard and long hours and displays of frivolity were frowned upon. I remember looking at photos of them where many of them sported few smiles. They almost looked unhappy, but I came to learn that they were really very happy people, but were extremely reserved in their show of emotions. They could tell a great joke and story that would make you laugh for hours! Pranksters? Oh gosh the tricks they loved to play. Their sense of purpose and calling revolved around providing for family, supporting family in times of need, raising polite, educated, respectful children, and helping their neighbors and the community good through service and faith. Every Thanksgiving meal was preceded by a prayer from the most senior male at the table.
Last but not least. How did Thanksgiving taste to me? How do you describe the melting pot of flavors? Yum, yum, yum. Juicy turkey with dressing all blanketed with gravy. Butter melting on the creamy mashed potatoes and the hot freshly baked rolls. The sweetness of the marshmallow on the sweet potatoes. Even the fishy taste of the scalloped oysters was subdued by the cracker crumb, cream, and parsley topping and a dab of turkey gravy. Trust me, it’s not bad at all. Most of the time we were too full from the meal to eat dessert right away. So, off to the living room for more conversation until the pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream.
I try to maintain most of these traditions with my own children and hope to pass them along to grandchildren. I hope you too, savor your memories and traditions.
It is with these moments that we develop our sense of self and self-esteem. They influence our life journeys of self-discovery and I am so thankful for the richness of my experiences.