Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday. The preparation time is short — a week at the outside — there is no demand to decorate the entire house, and there are no gifts to buy or costumes to make. For me Thanksgiving is what a holy-day should be, a time to remember our Maker with gratitude, and a time to draw close to those we love.
This year was my turn to prepare the feast, turkey dinner. The man of the house doesn’t believe it’s a proper holiday without turkey. Lamb, ham, prime rib — none of these have the cachet of turkey when it comes to celebration. So, I got up early on Sunday morning, stuffed the turkey and put it in the oven before heading off to church. The day before I’d dug potatoes from the garden, baked an apple pie, and made my special cranberry/mandarin jellied salad, another offering that only appears on holidays. My preparations were simple since my guests had all offered to bring a dish. Usually, I turn down those offers, but this year I said yes. Dinner for eight was a breeze.
However, there was one thing missing from the table — children. When I began married life, our friends were like us, couples. I could make elaborate table settings, balance acorns on oak leaves and serve adventurous dishes without worrying someone would knock it over or make a face and say “What’s that?” Then children appeared. The table had to stretch to twelve or fourteen or even eighteen. Different tastes had to be accommodated. The noise level went up. I created a toy box, just for visiting children. I needed bigger pots and a bigger turkey. Festive occasions were loud and energetic and exhausting.
But this year, none of the next generation was present. Dinner was so easy I feared I’d left something out. Conversation focused on watching sports instead of playing them. Retirement plans took the place of getting that first job. Everyone went home at a reasonable time.
I still love Thanksgiving. I revel in the bounty of harvest. I bring out the best china and the silver tea set. I dress my front door in fall colours. But I miss the kids. To my litany of thanks, I now add the privilege of knowing so many young people, (I’ve conducted a junior choir for years). I’m grateful to all of them for enriching my life, for sharing their activities, their energy, their interests and their growing years with me. A gift beyond price.