Thanksgiving is a holiday on which we serve up a plateful of gratitude.
"Bless this mess."
That was my Uncle Frank's way of praying before dinner on Thanksgiving.
Technically, my Aunt Jessie usually said the official prayer. It was her house and so it was her prayer, and she was going to count her blessings and ours, no matter how high the number. And, despite another aunt's multitude of sincere and detailed complaints about her physical ailments that she outlined during the meal that followed, we indeed were abundantly blessed. I'm not being humble when I admit that I always thought we got more than we deserved, at least more than we could possible eat for that holiday meal.
In her praying, Aunt Jessie hit all the high spots, giving thanks for not only the food, but for family that was present for the eating of it, and for any random good fortune that might have fallen upon any of us in the previous months. I have to give her credit, she was good at praying. She was eloquent. Her prayer was pretty all-encompassing. She sure seemed sincere.
We all would bow our heads and close our eyes during the prayer, although some of the younger of us might peek through a partially open lid to see if any siblings or cousins were sneaking food. None of us piglets wanted to fall a helping behind.
Then finally, after showing appropriate appreciation for the prosperity of her country and beseeching the Lord for world peace — or at least quiet in her neighborhood — she would conclude with an "Amen."
"Bless this mess," Uncle Frank would add, as we dug into the dishes, words which he might have gotten away with if he hadn't drawn a glare from Aunt Jessie by adding, "Would somebody throw me a wing and walk a drumstick over to me?"
The food that annually was spread across our family's Thanksgiving dinner table was evidence in itself that we should give thanks. A cornucopia of autumn dishes overflowed across my aunt's special event tablecloth. Roast turkey, bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, creamed corn, cranberry sauce and gently browned dinner rolls filled all the plates piled high at the holiday meal.
Most of the food even made its way to the smaller child's table, though, as I recall from the time I spent sitting at that space, no special effort to obtain vegetables was made by those youngest members of the family. Meat and mashed potatoes were highly coveted there, however, as was the stuffing and buns. Milk was made a priority to wash it all down.
We had our own conversation, too, mostly about children's activities, school news, and sibling squabbles.
So, when I came of age and was given a seat at the main table, albeit toward the end on the far side of my mother, I was intrigued by the subjects about which the adults talked. Politics. Sports. Television and movies. Even personal family issues were discussed, until such conversations were ended with a nod toward the youngest end of the table and the caution that, "Little pitchers have big ears."
At the time I thought they were talking about baseball.
Ending With Desserts
The dinner continued with coffee and conversation until someone, usually an uncle, pushed himself back from the table and said, "I can't eat another bite."
It was a lie, of course.
Indeed, this was merely just a well-rehearsed cue for my aunt to say, "Oh, I have pie for dessert."
And, with that declared, the "full" person would pull himself back up to the table.
Almost before her words were uttered, after she ordered Uncle Frank to clear the table of dinner plates, Aunt Jessie would rush out to the kitchen, then return with her traditional trio of pies — pumpkin, apple, and some kind of berry.
"I'll take a sliver of each," Uncle Frank always would request, clearing the way for other male adults to order the same selection without seeming gluttonous. Ice cream or whipped cream, often both, would be scooped atop the sweet slices and the plates full of pie would be passed down the line of guests until they reached their dinner-ending destination.
I marveled at how relatively quiet it became during the dessert course. Dessert is savored. We make it last. No one even thinks about watching football until the last morsel of flaky crust is devoured.
This does beg a question about holiday meals. Should we wait until the end of the dinner to pray? Who wouldn't show heartfelt thanks for anything that's a la mode?