I wasn’t gifted with the cooking gene. My sister can bake her heart out, and my mother can make the best turkey dressing you’ve ever tasted, with the perfect amount of sage every time. My grandmother can whip sweet potatoes like there is no tomorrow, but I was not blessed with the cooking gene. I may not make the best cream corn or green bean casserole, and pigs will fly the day you see me pull a gorgeous turkey out of the oven, but I still have much for which to be thankful.
The smell coming from the kitchen of my childhood home on Thanksgiving Day was sinful. It permeated the air and seeped into every room of the house before the day was over. Starting from the earliest hours of the morning, you would find my mother crumbling cornbread into an extremely large, silver casserole baking dish, used only for that sacred recipe. By the time I made it down the stairs, mom would be dicing eggs into that dressing dish with a super thin knife that had seen better days, but still got the job done. When I asked what I could do to help, she would always say, “grab those bags of cranberries over there and chop them up for me.” It was a chore I was happy to take off her hands, but needless to say, no great holiday story ever came from me chopping cranberries.
No, my contributions were not to the cooking. My heart was at peace when I set the table. Every place setting was intentional and every gesture meaningful. I envisioned the people I loved gathered around the table and wanted to transform the meal we would share into a lasting memory. No matter the holiday, my mom always had the most beautiful decor to work with – pheasant feathers, wooden cutting boards, gourds of the richest colors. Pulling down all the bone colored salad and dinner plates from the cabinets and washing them with the “special silver” we only used at these types of meals, was what I enjoyed. I would patiently fold the cloth napkins and separate the adult and kids tables, even though the “kids” were all grown and some even had spouses. Making each place and each face feel warm and welcome was my contribution to the family gatherings, and I was perfectly alright with that!
As the family trickled in, holding their desserts, cheese balls, and the newest recipe – later to be judged worthy to sit next to the other traditional staples next year – the home and quite honestly my heart, felt more and more full. Coming from a relatively small family that has experienced its fair share of loss, these gatherings made an impression on me from a young age, as something special I was fortunate to experience. The love poured into every dish, every hug, every tradition was why I gave thanks.
One tradition in particular that I fully intend to continue is the reading of scripture scrolls my grandmother keeps in a small wooden box, given to her by her grandmother. The tiny individual scrolls are rolled and held together by tiny blue bands. The colors of each tattered scroll vary, but their size is all the same. Once dinner was ready, everyone was called into the kitchen and my grandmother held the small wooden box of blessings in her beautifully aged hands, and allowed us all, one-by-one, to take a scroll. I always found it humorous how applicable the scripture I happened to grab that day was to my life. God speaks to his children in so many ways. We read our scriptures aloud before the food and fellowship were blessed. In those moments and hours of laughter to come, my cup runneth over.
As autumn arrives, we hear those familiar reminders to “Give thanks,” “Be grateful,” and “Count your blessings”. When we surround ourselves with grateful moments, our lives shine with joy. That’s when Thanksgiving becomes more than just a day or a season. It becomes a vibrant way of life.