Thanksgiving is simply too late in the year perched as it is on the brink of December and breathing down the back of Christmas. It is too late to be a proper harvest festival and it is too early, really, to write about it in the November newsletter. Horticulturally speaking all is safely gathered in at least six weeks before we eat turkey unless you are a wild rice farmer or a Florida orange grower.
What I remember of Thanksgiving growing up is not the harvest, (I lived in the suburbs), but the ritual of family that seemed to offer a sense of belonging and community that is the stuff of which we yearn today.
The routine drive up North to my grandparents house was one I would sleep through until we came to the winding part of Highway 169 around the west side of Mille Lacs Lake. In November, Mille Lacs looked cold and gray. Soon the white caps would give way to a cold Canadian front and it would quickly turn solid and smooth for the fishing villages to appear and Grumpy Old Men would homestead for another winter. This year the Fish and Game are letting us catch five Northern Pike and One Walleye a day from our ice houses. There didn't seem to be a limit on fish when I was eleven but that is probably why there is limit on Mille Lacs today.
My grandparent's house had an upstairs which was unique to us rambler living suburban kids. There was an attic, a clothes chute, a basement, and a swinging door to the kitchen so there was always something for us to explore and hurt ourselves. We gathered to eat in the formal dining room that seemed to be able to expand with the number of leaves in the table. My grandfather would pray, but it wasn't "Come Lord Jesus" that I knew, so that prayer always derailed me for a second. And then with 'Amen' still hanging in the air, plates and platters and bowls and pitchers started coming at you from around the table.
There were mountains of mashed potatoes and squash, along with canned corn and the traditional bowl of perfectly cubed rutabaga's my grandfather had cut from his shop in the garage. My uncle would ask for the peanut butter and we would start eating. My grandmother would spend most of the meal in the kitchen refilling bowls and platters through the swinging door. If you didn't take 'thirds' from her, she would ask you why you didn't like it.
The afternoon was spent watching football on TV, napping, or worrying about the weather and the drive home. The younger children played on the landing on the stairs that went up to the bedrooms. There was conversation in the kitchen over dirty dishes spurred on by wine and schnapps. I would go outside in the front yard with a football and catch the winning touchdown for the Minnesota Gophers over and over until I got called in for turkey sandwiches and left over pumpkin pie.
The Thanksgiving meal was a cornucopia of memories.
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give God thanks and praise.
The Great Thanksgiving.
See you in Church,