Situations may not change, their influence over our feelings can.
The turkey had seemed so much heavier this year when she lugged it up the stairs to the kitchen. Still, the tag read twenty pounds and a few ounces, which was not much different from the weight of birds that graced the table during the previous half-century. She shrugged. Guess life in general seems heavier these days. There would be fewer places to set at the table this year. While the grandkids would still be clamoring for their drumsticks, the faces of dear friends, now enjoying the eternal banquet would be missed.
She reflected for some time on the losses of the seasons past: lives, jobs, homes, relationships. Things had been rough within the community, within the family, and therefore within her own heart. It was challenging to conjure up the joy and gratitude called for by the coming holidays, even for the professionals. Proof could be found in the nearly manic forced cheer on TV commercials and falsely optimistic news and political reports. No one could cover up the facts. The young men would still be fighting overseas, except those already buried beneath waving flags they could no longer see. Old and not so old people would still be turned out of their homes, watching life’s detritus being carried off by trash men. Illness would still attack children and adults alike in new forms that now came with code-like initials and numbers. Several churches had been set ablaze in recent months. For Pete’s sake, don’t we ever learn, ever change beyond aging and seeing the hate through hazier lenses?
As the pre-dawn glow turned to lemon light, she glimpsed a hawk flexing his powerful wings as he moved from tree to tree searching for the chipmunks she knew had taken refuge in the wood pile. Nature is constant and tenaciously grasps its’ raw beauty, witnessing to the gift of creation despite man’s folly. Moving away from the window, she began peeling sweet potatoes for pie and mentally listing the vegetables that needed preparation. Now, that is something to be grateful for. There had always been an abundance of produce to bring to the table and this year, while oysters or shrimp were out of the question, no one would miss them as they passed fruit and nuts, greens and fried tomatoes. She smiled as she thought of the youngest guest’s aversion to all things green. “No tank you!” He would chirp politely as he warded off any semblance of leafy vegetation from his plate. If his mother tried to argue the health benefits of such nourishment with him, the toddler would stiffen and insist, “Kittencorn (candy corn) good for me!” Then, quickly before his mom could respond, he would turn his winning smile to ‘geema’ and affably request “more tweet tatoes, peas!” What a charmer, that one.
Setting the table was a chore to be savored. Generation reached out to generation as great-grandma’s sterling pieces mingled with ceramic bowls the girls had fashioned as gifts in grammar school. Memories of ancient jokes and stories shared over china coffee cups came back like old friends to visit and offer reassurance. Fresh flowers, gathered from the few plants that still withstood fall’s persistent advances added the final touch to a meticulously planned display. In only a few hours, the neat and ordered presentation would lose its sterile serenity to dripped gravy and splashed wine, but that too is something to be grateful for.
As the rich aroma of roasted turkey left no corner of the house untouched, the clatter in the front hall and deep tones of her spouse’s welcoming greeting announced the first arrivals. Group by group, the family and loved ones filled the living room and overflowed into the warm kitchen.
“What? TV not on? It’s almost time for the pre-game show.”
“Not in this house. No TV ‘til after dinner, but you won’t miss it, I promise,” one teen ‘grand’ instructed her escort.
“That’s right, sweetie, come let me get you a soda.” Returning from the kitchen, icy glass in one hand, a tissue to blot the moisture on her brow in the other, she sighed with satisfaction. Nearly time to serve now, and count those blessings that once again gain sway against the shadowy parts of life. Indeed, it is time for Thanksgiving.