We walked into my Gram's house early in the morning. I had promised to come over and help her cook. Knowing her though, it would be mostly done. Every year Gram hosts our family Thanksgiving. She puts on a full spread, Turkey, Roast Beef, Mashed Potatoes and Cauliflower, Green Bean Casserole, Sweet Potato Casserole, Rolls, Apple bread, and Pies. OH! The pies! Every pie you can imagine; Apple, Berry, Cherry, Pumpkin. Grams knew how to bake a pie!
The house was warm and smelled like apples and cinnamon. My son ran straight for the kitchen with his coat still on. Standing in the entry slowly shedding my winter coat I could hear their voices floating out from the hearth of Gram’s home.
"Grammie, can I have some?"
"Shhhh, don't tell anyone I let you lick the spoon."
I knew that scene, I had been the one "sneaking" a lick of Gram's spoons many moons ago. I smiled and took my time as I imagine my parents did when I was young. The morning was filled with chopping and cooking and taste testing. The rest of our family arrived throughout the morning. The adults settling in family room and the children flitting from room to room and sometimes running outside with the dogs.
The afternoon was filled with family and laughter and the infamous board game Battle Royale. At some point while my brother and my uncle were arguing the rules of Munchkin, my Grams emerged from the kitchen and announced it was time to set the table. Family tradition dictated that anyone who couldn't drink wine with dinner had to set the table. My son, nieces and nephew all jumped and scrambled for the dining room. The rattle of the china and the tinkling of the silver and crystal punctuated early evening sounds. My uncle poured us all a glass of sherry and we toasted the children. The first Thanksgiving after my son was born, I was invited to partake in the children's toast.
My mother, "We give thanks for the children and wish for them to grow strong and healthy in the love and light of the Sun and Moon…"
My uncle, "…and may they keep their greasy paws out of the lavender lemon pound cake"
Laughing, we drank to the toast and wandered into the dining room. My 12-year-old niece was putting the last fork on the last napkin. The name plates were carefully balanced on the top of each plate, the handwriting and spelling gave away that they were clearly the handiwork of my 4-year-old nephew.
My son was standing, arms crossed, feet spread wide, every inch the eldest cousin acting as overseer. Just a few weeks shy of his 13th birthday he was looking forward to no longer being part of the “kids crew”. I wanted so much to tell him to hold on to this moment to be thankful for it… too soon it would be just a memory.
The men headed for the kitchen to retrieve the food and bring it to the table. They loved this part. Each of them entered from the kitchen with a flourish and laid his dish on the table with care and grace as if serving a royal feast. It took several trips to get it all from the hearth to the table. The final dish, a great turkey, perfectly golden crispy skin shining in the chandelier light, steam rising from it fogging my dad’s glasses. He slowly lowered it to the table and announced:
“Be it known! The feast is about to begin.”
He took his seat and my Grams rose from the head of the table. She spread her arms wide and gave the blessing:
“O Queen of Creation; bless this food, Bring us health and wealth, strength and joy, peace and love;”
No sooner had her bum contacted her chair than the din of the feast began. Clanking serving spoons and cries of “pass the potatoes”, “some salt please”, “who has the pepper” …
When the eating began a happy quiet descended on the table. After having had a taste of everything on her plate Grams looked up and said;
“This year I am Thankful for the bounty of my little garden, and for my children who have given me so many beautiful grandchildren.”
“Grammie, you said the same thanks last year!” The 4-year-old is an astute little character.
“Yes, my love, because I am thankful for them all over again this year”
“My teacher says that Thanksgiving is when the Pilgrims came and they almost starved, but the First People saved them, and they had a big dinner” My 6-year-old niece used her best know-it-all voice to make her declaration. She is so much like my sister that I am often left wondering if she isn’t just a little clone.
Grams looked at me over the rim of her glasses, “Care to take this one dear?” Of all my siblings, I alone had taken up the mantle of The Teacher. Usually Grams handled these sorts of things but earlier this year she had declared her retirement.
“Well, the history that is taught in schools isn’t wrong, but it isn’t all the way right either. There are some historical references that indicate that most of the traditional story of Thanksgiving is close to accurate.”
I looked around the table, most everyone had heard this before, but they all gave me their full attention. As if hearing it for the first time. “But we don’t celebrate the Thanksgiving of the nation. We celebrate the thanksgiving of our family. We hold our feast on the Autumnal Equinox, nearly two months before theirs. We are giving thanks for the abundance of the year. Grammie’s garden, which brought you most of the veggie dishes on the table. Uncle Bran’s farm which gave us this beautiful turkey. Your dad’s butcher shop that provided the roast. Aunt Sam’s salon which gave you those awesome mermaid locks.”
She beamed a gap-toothed grin at my sister. “but mostly we gather to give thanks for each other. We are truly blessed to have such a large and loving family. The universe has been kind to us. We are healthy, we have homes and all this food. There are many who don’t have even half of what we have.”
All the adults were nodding, the teenagers yawning, but the little ones… the ones who really needed to hear this were all eyes and ears. “Hundreds of years ago our ancestors worked very hard to feed their families. They grew everything themselves. They raised their own animals for the slaughter. And the success of their harvests was never guaranteed. When the year was prosperous and the harvest fruitful, they would give thanks to the Earth and whatever local Gods they worshipped”,
“But what if it wasn’t! Auntie, what happened when the harvest was bad?”
I continued, “Well Matty, they still gave thanks to the Earth and their gods. You give thanks for what you have, you do not mourn what you don’t have. What point would there have been for them to grieve their lack?”
Every year is the same. My family sitting around the great oak table passing food, sharing stories and love. The children squabbling over who’s roll is bigger. The adults reveling in the energy of the youth.
Children are the future of our world. That they can hear this explanation and learn it in their hearts is the miracle of youth. They are ripe and ready for the lessons that will teach them to be the leaders we need. Our harvest is not vegetables, it is not the berries of the vine, it is not the grain of the field; it is our children. We must tend them and guide them to grow strong. When they are harvested from the kinder-garden and thrust into the world they need to be ready for the trials they will face.
A Story by Lady Sisterwolf
Photo: Oven roasted brine-soaked turkey by TheKohser - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Inner Circle Sanctuary
Inner Circle Sanctuary is a school for traditional style Wicca and holds eight sabbat festivals every year.