The twins will be in their highchairs, about to taste meat for the first time. My vegetarian son and daughter-in-law will proudly display the turkey that they roasted to accommodate the elder, traditional generation, i.e., Chip and me.
Then, when we are seated, I will say grace, since I have a new version that I recently discovered -- a Jewish prayer: "Grateful, am I, to You."
This is better than my childhood "Bless us oh Lord and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen;" because it covers not only the meal, but everything that comes with God's gift of life.
"Grateful, am I, to You."
This is the meaning of life: Gratitude. Appreciation.
It is my faith that God created the world, and He was lonely. So He created Man to have someone who could enjoy and be grateful for light, the firmament, the waters, the variety of plants and animals; someone who would say, "Wow, God, what a wonderful day, ...breeze, ...blueberry bush, ...field of daffodils, ...kitten, ...whatever."
Then Man was lonely, so God created Woman, to join in the chorus of appreciation for Earth's wonders, and to add, "Wow, Adam, love this fire you made, ...this puppy you trained, ...this rose you brought me, ...etc."
In return, Adam was expected to say, "Wow, Eve, love this bread you made from the wheat, ...the way you arranged the daffodils, ...the sound of your laughter and song, ...etc."
Clearly, many things have gone wrong since the first Thanksgiving in the Garden of Eden.
The male/female relationship has changed a lot, for instance. But every year we try to remember the reason we were created, and stop to say thank-you to the Creator, to whoever cooks the meal, to whoever brings the wine or sparkling cider.
Last year Chip and I had a turkey dinner with our long-time friend, Heinz, and his new Austrian wife, Brigitte, who cooks in several languages. It was the first time I had ever tasted chestnut stuffing, and Heinz made a Linzer torte for dessert.
The culinary thrill was heightened by my ongoing recovery from lung surgery, which had an impact on any residual sense of immortality. The lesson: Have another helping, for this meal could be your last.
I've been doing this second helping thing for a year now, so it's a good thing I had another major life-threatening event in April or I would be well over 200 pounds by now. As it is, I gained back half of what I lost from the illnesses, and what fun it was to make up for lost calories!
Grateful, am I, for spaghetti and meatballs, cherry ice cream, and mocha chocolate. Grateful, am I, for my new hairdo (see photo) that began when my head was shaved for surgery seven months ago; for the walking stick I used during recovery that has become my companion on nature walks because the polished wood feels so good; and for the many get-well cards that I can't bring myself to discard.
If you fear ill health, remember that it often brings blessings that you later admit you wouldn't want to have missed. And remember that things are often not as bad as you might imagine.
At one point I had to drink something for a CAT scan. I argued that I didn't need any liquid to check out either my chest or my head, but it was a routine that was required for some reason. I remembered my dad having that test many years ago and saying how awful the liquid tasted, so I was prepared to hold my nose and gag.
Well, lots of medical things have changed. The liquid tasted like a banana milkshake and they give one lots of time to drink it. I read my novel and sipped, feeling silly about my objections, and remembering the other times I expected the worst and it never happened, or it wasn't as bad as anticipated.
It's so obvious, always, that none of us will live forever. Yet I think most of us don't look that reality right in the eye until something happens or we reach our mid-fifties, whichever comes first.
Ray Bradbury has written a wonderful new novel. "From the Dust Returned," about the Elliots, an extended family that does tend to live forever and therefore has accumulated wisdom to impart. One of them talks of "the small voice that asks of the dead who arrive for admission at the gate of paradise: 'In your life, did you know enthusiasm?' If the answer is yes you enter the sky..."
Whether you have turkey or tofu, call the side-dish stuffing, filling or dressing; prefer pumpkin pie or Linzer torte; no matter what you call the Primary Force or where you worship: May your soul be stuffed with gratitude, appreciation, and enthusiasm on Thanksgiving Day and always.