Photo courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection
Tomorrow I will celebrate Thanksgiving with extended family, friends, and strangers. Most likely our feast will start tonight as we finish cooking, meander through Thursday, and end sometime on Friday. There will be no formal table set, instead we will browse the buffet filling our plates several times throughout each day and sit where ever there is room-inside or out. My plates will hold turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potato, gravy, and pumpkin pie as well as lumpia, pancit, ham, turducken, tamales, and candy pie.
It won’t have the Normal Rockwell vibe so many associate with Thanksgiving. There will not be a formal table set, instead I will eat off of paper plates and sit in a folding chair that sinks into the damp ground in a slightly catawampus way.. The table will have a plastic tablecloth, and the person I sit next to could be a distant cousin-in-law or a complete stranger to me. By the time the prayer is said, many will have already eaten, and many more will have not yet arrived. .
As I sit outside eating my Mexican, Cajun, Filipino, American mix of food, I’ll take some time to think of the first Thanksgiving, of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians eating outdoors,and of the mix of English style foods and Wampanoag style foods. I’ll think of the Pilgrims sitting next to strangers that didn’t share a common language, eating mostly foods that were new to them, but thankful for having any food to help them survive in their new world. I’ll think of the Wampanoag Indians willing to embrace a new people, willing to share their knowledge and their foods to a people so different than themselves.
I’ll think of Abraham Lincoln who felt our nation as a whole needed to sit down together and be thankful. I’ll think of those who have served overseas on Thanksgiving, and of those who ration and do without on a regular basis, but are still thankful for the blessings they do have. I’ll think of the blessings I enjoy and those who showed me how to be grateful for those blessings.
So this Thanksgiving let’s remember it is not whether or not we eat turkey or gravy that is important, but rather the spirit that we eat it in.