Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Thanksgiving Feast

A lot of people used to knock themselves out trying to have the big Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving dinner. Did you ever think about inviting ALL of your ancestors to dinner? I mean all of them--well, for argument's sake, the ones directly behind you.
First of all, you'd need a lot of chairs. Let's see, two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grands...hmm, geometric progression is a grand thing. I don't think the fire department, funeral parlor and bingo hall all put together have that many folding chairs. If you look it up, by the time you're back to the Middle Ages you've got over a billion people invited.
Uh, wait a minute...there weren't a billion people alive during the Middle Ages. Some of the names on your family tree have to repeat. Does that mean you're...?
Yes. So are all of us. Next time you start to make a joke about somebody's family tree being a pole, remember all of ours are not so awful far back.
Now, as your guests arrive--even if there aren't quite as many as you expected--you have to handle introductions, since some of them are really surprised to see one another. Good thing you put that "no politics" note on your invitation. The things we used to fight about might seem as remote now as...well, as what we're fighting about now may someday if we're lucky. At one time, some of these people were bitter enemies. You, personally, are a living breathing peace treaty.
How DID some of these people meet, anyhow? Let them explain, and realize that some of the stories verge on the ridiculous. They grew up five miles apart, but never met until they both moved to America? She stowed away on his ship? Does that really happen? Any editor worth his salt would be telling you to tone down the wild stories, but there they are, true. You are an improbability.
Look at the others, those who came along even though, in the strictest terms, they weren't invited. They are the brothers and sisters of your grands, great-grands and all the way back, and there are so very many more of them. Why aren't they at someone else's imaginary Thanksgiving dinner? They died without descendants, as infants or children. Yes, there are far more of them than there are of your ancestors. These people who made you are survivors of every kind of accident and disease known to man, not to mention war and forced relocation. They have lived through starvation and plague, shelling and hard winters. They are survivors. You have their strength in your genes.
Now look at the furthest back of those you asked. They are much shall we put this...beige. Everyone is more or less the same shade all that way back. When you boast of being one race or another, remember how recent that development is. Whatever our genes have been reconfigured to do or look like, we all can claim a race: human.
Whether or not you suggest saying grace, some of them will. There might have been some discussion of that, since some of them have ideas about religion that don't match others'. To keep the peace at the table, I can suggest this:
For being who we are, and not who we wish we were, we thank You.
For having what we need, and not always what we want, we thank You.
For giving thanks out loud, without having to hide, we thank You.
For our being unlikely, imperfect, a little strange and a lot entertaining, we thank You, and please have patience with us because we really haven't got it all figured out even after this long. Oh, and the turkey thing? That was a really nice good idea. So were raspberries, autumn leaves changing colors, pumpkins and, most of all, chocolate. Thank You. Is it time to eat yet?


  1. Your version of grace is completely beautiful! I haven't been to your blog in so long. Loved this post!

  2. Becky, I love this post. I've often thought "what if" all of those ancestors could show up for dinner.

    I will try a version of your grace this Thanksgiving and see who chokes on their turkey. My family wouldn't get it.