T W E N T Y - S I X - L E T T E R S
What's yours? In today's festivities of food, what's the one food that simply can't be missing from the table for you?
At first I went right to my mom's Pawley's Island Pie. But nope, hands down for me, it's the simple ribbed slurp-slop of that can of cranberry sauce. No embellishments, no prep-time, no overcooking (okay, maybe that last one is why I like it). But seriously, I got to thinking about this...
Why the can of cranberry?
Over the past couple weeks I was fortunate to be able to see my family in Atlanta. A surprise 65th birthday for my dad, seeing my mom, dad, and sisters and their spouses, and very happy to see my grandma and grandad, 92 and 94yrs old, and my sweet-fun 2yr-old niece Zoe. But the highlight of the week was getting to meet two brand new members of my family. Baby Reed and baby Allison. One month apart and baptised together on Sunday.
Meeting new babies who are part of your family, your blood, was intriguing to me. It was sort of like meeting two new neighbors. But you're getting to know them as they don't yet have distinct personalities yet. And of course, no traditions... yet.
Today, for Thanksgiving, I am very grateful to be spending it with dear friends up here on a beautiful November day in the DC area, but was stumped when my friend who is hosting insisted there was no need to bring anything.
At first, my thought was that I didn't want her to have to provide ALL the food. We should help out. Then I realized why I was stumped on this request. Everyone's holidays are quirkily and uniquely theirs. And the desire to 'bring something' was also our desire to bring a part of our own traditions and share with others.
Growing up, and as far back as I can remember, my mom would prepare a scrumptious spread, dad would carve the turkey. All of mom's dishes were in the oven at the right time so rotation seemed flawless. The fine silver was often brought out, and in their current house it was one of the few days a year we'd eat in the dining room.
But with all the fuss, preparation, and formality...
...it was the simple, ribbed slurp-slop of that can of cranberry sauce that in it's simplistic way, simply 'made' the holidays for me. Though, of course, it wasn't just the can of cranberry sauce. There's nothing terribly earth shattering about the way Ocean Spray puts it together. But rather, for me its 'as-is' quality amongst all the other dishes that have been so fussed over, mixed, prepared, primped, and baked. It's also all of the memories that this little can holds -- of being a part of so many family gatherings -- that make it, in my book, just as regal as the turkey.
In Atlanta, as I was watching our family grow on the younger end with these two precious little cherubs, my nephew and niece, I was feeling a gratitude that my grandparents are still present and a part of my life, I realized that all of our families are in flux. We change, who is or isn't in our life changes. Life is on the move. Always.
Our family trees gets new roots and leaves fall, too.
There are friends of mine who've lost family members over this past year or so who I am thinking about today. I know a tradition of gathering together like Thanksgiving or Christmas may be hard. Missing that person. But I hope in the memory of that person, that life, that you are able to gather some comfort and joy. And peace.
If the can of cranberry is missing from the table this year, the memory of wonderful gatherings is still there. If a person is missing from the table this year, I pray that the memory of their beautiful life is still there with you as well.
And for life, memories, traditions, even change, and yes, cranberry sauce... I give thanks.
©2011 Wendy Hudgins