In It All..... Thanks

November 23, 2011

Folded newspaper Pilgrim hats and fringed felt Indian vests are long gone from my house. Gone are the times of going to Aggie's house or the Silo Restaurant for Thanksgiving Dinner. I remember being at Aggie's on Thanksgiving Day, 1954. The phone rang around three o'clock. It was Mr. Williams calling for Daddy. "I just found Mr. Stroud dead on the creek bank. He must have been pulling the john boat to shore when he collapsed." The formal part of Thanksgiving Day was over and soon to be crowded out by all that comes with the death of the patriarch. Last night on NPR, there was conversation about a UNESCO initiative to preserve indigenous cultural practices that are in danger of being lost to the world for various reasons, the underlying question being "what in a culture is worth being preserved and protected?" I have pondered that question in my own family's practice of Thanksgiving. The menu is surely worth protecting, isn't it? Asparagus or broccoli? Oyster dressing or scalloped oysters? Roast or fried turkey? Sweet potatoes... candied or souffl├ęd? Truth is menu is not sacred. Open to change ... yes? Maybe? There is a story told in my family about cooking the ham. Aggie would cut off the hock end of the ham before she cooked it. Mother would always do the same. When I started cooking hams, I also cut the hock end of the ham off. I didn't really know the reason except for three generations it had been the practice. One day when Aggie was old, I asked her why we cut the end off the ham. Was it so we would have the ham hock for seasoning? Was it for some kind of health reasons? "No," Aggie said. "I cut the end of the ham off because it's the only way it would fit in my pan." End of story. In a day and age when the speed of time is increasing, when Black Friday is bleeding into Thursday, when families are scattered and the economy is tattered, what is worth preserving and protecting about Thanksgiving? For me it's the thanks-giving itself that's worth preserving and passing forward through the ages. Thanks for the stories, thanks for the memories, thanks for food and home, thanks for all the Thanksgivings past, for all those whose feet have tapped for joy as the dressing is passed. Thanks for those who will gather around the table and for laughter that will rise up like praise. In it all - all the worry and fear, in all the contention and heart-ache, let us lay aside those things that divide us and weigh us down, and gather in thanks-giving. Let us come into God's presence with singing songs of thanks. In it all let us thank God whose blessings are sure from generation to generation. Amen.  

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