Sunday Morning ~ Where the Bounty Originates
Azidyera pa mutu pa mfumu. ~ They have eaten on the chief’s head.
~ Chewa proverb
November 21, 2021
In my search for a proverb about giving thanks, I found one translating an expression of gratitude for the work others have done to provide for us. It seemed appropriate given the more accurate historical accounts of Thanksgiving rising to consciousness now.
In grammar school I learned a story of Pilgrims and their Indian friends working together as a team to provide this happy day for us to enjoy. We made construction paper turkeys with Crayola colored tail feathers as a tribute to the suffering our forefathers endured on our behalf. They were grateful for their harvest and worked together in their gender specific roles to have a day as happy as I was having. How good of them. I loved that story. I loved the idea of people working to help each other. I saw simple illustrations of this feast, confirming the story was true. It was all there in black and white.
Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday since I became conscious of holidays. It holds happier memories than Christmas, possibly because it was a day when the family, especially my mother, was happy. I find the memory of simple childhood Thanksgivings comforting. In our college years, when we developed unwelcome opinions and felt empowered to drop them at the dinner table, the day got tense, but so was everything else then. As a kid however, the day was filled with good food, good humor, and football. The meal was grand in abundance and presentation though there was no heirloom china or fancy linens. The excitement surrounding the day built as brown boxes from the Italian bakery, neatly stacked on counters, tantalized us. Their contents could only be imagined and we patiently awaited their debuts. Breakfast pastries were gooey jam filled delights that tore apart in layers, glaze dripping onto our hands. Desserts were eclairs and cream puffs, pumpkin tarts, and pecan rolls. There were no limits; they were piled onto a platter, placed on the table, and we went at it, eating all we wanted. Bowls of nuts had sets of excavation tools on top. Eating nuts required work but we were not deterred. Only then could we enjoy the pill-sized walnut piece. I despaired from even going after the cashews. They took forever to get results. My brother would work for awhile to collect a nice pile of nut meats, smile his superior smile, then eat them all at once. I did the same with my pomegranate seeds. While others struggled to get a few popped into their mouths, peeling away the clingy connective tissue, I’d perform my surgery steadily until I had a whole pile of seeds to consume at my leisure. This was as savored as the pastries.
The weather was cold but the house was warm. The radiators hissed as bread dough rose on their shoulders. Once breakfast was consumed, we bundled up for the high school football game. It seems inconceivable to me now, but the final game of high school football season was played Thanksgiving morning. No one traveled; people put their turkey in to roast, left for the game, and returned to eat dinner in our own kitchens or dining rooms. I knew of no one who visited relatives in another state. Our Italian relatives called that day; my prominent memory being my mother fretting about how much the call was costing. Paying by the minute, a long distance call was a holiday treat. I’d hear my father speaking Italian in the hallway, the receiver to his ear, the phone attached to the wall. There was no chair, no illusion anyone would speak long enough for a need to sit down. If there was a lot to say it went into a letter.
My best friend Beth, lived across the street and we compared our Thanksgiving rituals. She had relatives come for dinner because they lived in the same town. This was a marvel to me. The women arrived dressed in nylon stockings and girdles, fur collared coats, corsages, purses, and hats. Men wore suits. The height of relaxation that day was when they took off their jackets after dinner. But in my house, it was sweaters and slippers once we got home from the game. We drank cider from the back porch and ate from morning until night. The whole day was about filling our bellies with goodness and co-existing in that warm house. The television glowed all day with men wearing pads and helmets sliding in mud while coaches on the sidelines smoked cigarettes. They wore suits and ties under big overcoats and we could only imagined what they were saying. Their mouths moved and hands waved and it was all left to the imagination. My memory is in black, white, and shades of grey, this happy home for a day.
My mother juggled gravy, mashed potatoes, and squash, trying to serve a perfectly cooked meal during half time. “I thought you said two minutes a half hour ago!” she’d yell. This was all lighthearted and loving in my memory. I have no idea if it really was. Probably not. The table was set and turkey carved and marching bands were background music for our feast.
We said grace at our house when my mother’s uncle and aunt, a priest and nun, visited at random times of the year. Thanksgiving was not one of those times, but we said grace on Thanksgiving without them. It was never ad lib, but the standard, “Bless us oh Lord and these thy gifts that we are about to receive. In the name of the father, the son, and holy ghost, Amen.” Simple and easy whether sincere or not. We never went around the table voicing something we were thankful for. Children had no voice and it was only much later that mattered to me. At the time, having my parents happy was what I was thankful for. Where the food came from, the bounty, the warmth, were all taken for granted.
Despite all the world is enduring right now, I still love that we have a holiday celebrating gratitude. May we have a broader view of where the bounty originates and spread the sentiment to those who deserve it.
Love to all,