The great meals of the holidays were always held at my family’s matriarch’s tables. Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we went for Christmas. We better show up for Thanksgiving also. Actually, both of the grands lived just across town and north Louisiana almost never saw snow, but we always ate these family dinners with them.
Daddy’s Mother had a huge table that sat twelve. As a small child, I was more interested in the bell installed in the floor. It was left over from the years when families had house servants and cooks to help with the daily chores of life. My Grandmother lived alone and had no need of help any more. She laid her table with beautiful pink Fostoria dishes and silver. Of all the fancy recipes she cooked, I enjoyed her Ambrosia the most: fruit salad, nuts, marshmallows, and coconut.
Dad and his brother Berkley would both bring all their family, so it was a happy time for Osie. When Berkley’s only son Doug was killed in a car wreck, he quit celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas. He quit coming to the “family” meals, for his family was incomplete.
This is part of the grief that people bring into the table, the grief that can only be healed by the community of love and the building of new memories to replace the old ones. When we get together to tell the stories of the ones we love, they are present with us! They share the table, even though they cannot physically share the meal.
I am now the matriarch of my family: the oldest child and the only daughter. I’ve invited my brother and his wife to my house as well as a friend and her boyfriend. We all have a certain loneliness and a woundedness, for each of us has a broken relationship somewhere in our lives. Mine is with my mentally ill daughter who lives on the streets of San Francisco. She has a room for the winter. For that I am thankful.
We are cooking this meal together, so it isn’t a big production for one person. This is another reason to be thankful. It will not have a can of mushroom soup or dried onion rings near it: another reason for thanksgiving! But there will be PIE!