by betty.

Harvesting Memories at the Thanksgiving Table

W9Thanksgiving usually brings people together in one of my favorite ways––over a shared meal. Dining around a table with interesting family and friends (and aren't we all wonderfully interesting?) stirs my heart, my senses, and my mind. When people are allowed to speak freely and exchange ideas respectfully, I learn more about them, the world, and myself. Yes, sometimes I get angry or at least disappointed that someone I thought was "one of us" is really playing for some other team. 

We often feel unheard, not understood, confused by the events around us, and plain ole tired of having to be emotionally up for all the interactions we experience as we go about a normal day. But when we sit around a table and "break bread" together, we often are better able to let most irritations melt with the butter on the mashed potatoes.

True, sometimes the ritual gatherings at the holidays grow into crescendos of cacophonous blustering. I know, and have personally experienced, ingrates who will destroy the ambience by being argumentative, nasty, hurtful, and loud-mouthed. But let's hope and assume that our Thanksgiving tables this year will serve up more lightness and love than negativity. Let's determine to allow ourselves to enjoy whatever we are served at the table. Maybe reminding ourselves that this meal will end in a bounty of desserts might help us through difficult moments.

I'm guessing that along with the nature of the season of lengthening nights as well as recent world events, many of us are more subdued, more self-reflective, more aware of loss and the fragility of life. Further, the horror we've been subjected to recently has likely brought to mind our personal losses, making us acutely aware of loved ones who have died both recently and in the distant past.

To honor these tender feelings, I'd like to suggest that this year we all add a place at our tables for those who have passed. This would mean reserving space at our gatherings for people we know and people we only know of, such as the victims of the Paris attacks, who have died.

At our house this year, I'm going to ask people to light candles in a little fireplace which will serve as a visual reminder of those who have died. I'm also going to ask people to honor some of their losses by saying out loud the names of those who have died recently or of those we feel especially aware of their absence for whatever reason. Finally, I'm going to suggest we share a memory of someone who has departed the earth plain. 

My hope is that our awareness of those who are no longer with us physically will help us be thankful for the memories of love, joy, delight, playfulness, feistiness, quirkiness, and of all the other ways these dear souls imprinted their spirit on our lives.

If you'd like to share something you do with your family and friends on Thanksgiving, I'd love to hear about it.

Wishing you, your loved ones, your new, old, and most dear friends, as well as all the odd ones in your life a very happy Thanksgiving.