We are halfway through the Thanksgiving weekend and I am grateful for a refrigerator full of leftovers. Even after sending my daughter, Lindsay, back to New York with food for her annual Sunday “Friendsgiving” gathering, my partner, Rich, and I can still do replays over the next few days. Sure, it may get a little boring but it’s not the food that matters; it’s the memories attached to making and sharing the Thanksgiving meal together with family and new friends.Shut my eyes, and there’s my grand-nephew, Zach, nearly wriggling out of his skin with excitement because I asked him to introduce our meal with his 1st grade class story of Squanto. He taught us how Squanto learned the English he needed to teach the pilgrims their life saving skills in the new world. Kind monks saved Squanto from Spaniards who had sold him into slavery in the old world and he subsequently ended up in England before returning to his Native American homeland. While we caught up with each other over appetizers before our feast, those who wanted to made gratitude plates.It was easy to set up a crafts table with heavy duty paper plates, magazines, permanent markers, glue guns, scissors and a box full of embellishments. I didn’t how people would choose to express their gratitude, but I was delighted to see how readily they dove into the project. One guest came near the table and said, “I can’t do this. I’m not an artist!” A few plate-makers immediately responded, “Neither are we, but this is fun. You should try it!” And she did. A few chose to share what they’d made when I asked for volunteers. Four year old Millie explained that her plate featured the Lorax “because this is my favorite book,” and dogs, “because I love all my doggies.” My niece, Lyn, created a plate that spoke to her gratitude for living in a country that protects women’s rights and has given her so many powerful women role models to emulate. Our guest, Tyler, featured Woody Allen at the center of his plate because he is grateful for the brilliance of Woody Allen. The range of expressions varied as widely as the people in the room which is so American.
Others had written six word memoirs inspired by Larry Smith’s brilliant six word memoirs site. Tyler understood right away that Hemingway, the writer known for his terse prose, must
have inspired Smith when he wrote his shortest novel ever: “Baby shoes for sale. Never used.” Lindsay and I had gone online earlier that morning and cherry picked eight of our favorite Thanksgiving memoirs to give our guests samples for inspiration. My dad, at 85, left everyone laughing with his: “I’m with it. I get it.” And he does. Sometimes his penetrating questions and detailed recollections leave some of us wishing we were as sharp at half his age.
We laughed, created,reflected and then once again feasted on Rich’s amazing fried turkey now augmented by a smoked alternative, the new favorite, and the array of dishes contributed by each family. So even though this has been a tough year of a hard surgery gone bad for me, when I open the fridge I smile. I survey the shelves, celebrate us again and pray that all over the country—no matter what our circumstances—all of my fellow Americans found something to be grateful for on this Thanksgiving.