November 2005 - Volume 10, Issue 4
White Meat, Dark Meat, Or Lasagna
Memories are all that remain. But what memories they are. The nature of a truly Italian meal is best described by the word - abundance. And the Thanksgiving Day meal is an amazing display of culinary delights. If you still were able to eat anymore food by the time the turkey, lasagna (Yes, lasagna}, and all the fixings arrived, you would be ranked among the great eaters of the age. One year I asked my mother if she could stuff the turkey with lasagna. In spite of hours of nibbling, my brothers and I sat around the table, now heaped with comestibles, with the wide-eyed expectation of a hungry lion before a herd of wildebeests. Amidst the sight of flashing silverware, plates filled and emptied and a mountain of pasta, fowl, and all that attended them became foothills. Imagine! Nearly everything was devoured before half-time of the football game was over.
Admittedly, my portrayal of Thanksgiving dinner is overly dramatic. Actually, civility reigned. My mother would have it no other way. The spirit of thanksgiving, faith, and familial love was at the heart of that festive day. The sharing of food was symbolic of the sharing of the history of a family. Remembered in the Thanksgiving prayer were all present and all the loved ones who had passed beyond that particular celebration. On that day, the spirit and the essence of what it meant to be family were manifested palpably.
One very important portion of the Thanksgiving ritual was an internal one: the practice of carefully taking stock of each member of the family. Somewhere amid the drumsticks and the touchdowns much information and deep feelings were exchanged. A mutual assessment of the well being of the family was in progress. Even as the annual event was taking place, I was aware of its fragility and I labored to imprint immutable memories of the gathering on my mind. Now, in quiet moments, I ponder these recollections and treasure them. At the time, I could not appreciate the meal for what it was. What we were experiencing was a family Eucharist. Our souls were being nourished as well as our bodies. At day's end we departed, but something lingered in our hearts. An invisible hand touched and guided us as we lived the average days which followed and filled most of the year: that spirit-link of a family's love.
Family traditions counter alienation and confusion.
They help us define who we are,
they provide something steady,
reliable and safe in a confusing world.
- Susan Lieberman
As it had before and will again, the uninvited and unwanted guest of death visited the family. The Reaper's grim work disfigured and diminished the harmonious rubric of our family gatherings and the significant acts of our individual lives. With each departing, the following Thanksgiving would be marked with tears for a voice now stilled and a presence now absent. Yet, the meaning of the day and the power of the family, bound together in the hope of God's saving grace, slowly soothed the pain. In time, the joy and the gifts of the departed loved one added to the family legacy and he or she was awarded a place of honor and attained a spiritual presence. The family reconstructed itself and introduced new roles to its members. Someone once said,"The Family is the Country of the heart. There is an angel in the Family who, by the mysterious influence of grace, of sweetness, and of love, renders the fulfillment of duties less wearisome, sorrows less bitter." The family survives.
Our national celebration of Thanksgiving has been inextricably tied to faith, survival and hope for the future. Whether it be the jubilant feast of a collection of families known as Pilgrims in seventeenth century Massachusetts gathering in thankfulness for God's favors, a beleaguered President during the mid-nineteenth century engaged in a great Civil War calling the Union to prayer for its continued existence, or President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the midst of a national crisis in the mid-twentieth century making Thanksgiving Day an official holiday for the nation, we must remember and do no less for our family and our country now in the early years of the twenty-first century. My family and I join in prayer to God, who is our source of life and our hope for eternity, for peace, joy, and an abundance of His blessings for you and your family on this Thanksgiving Day.
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