What’s on my plate this month?
Earlier this week my son and I arrived at my parents’ house in San Diego, just skirting the storms in Portland. Thanksgiving has been the holiday my parents have claimed for decades now, calling all west coast family to feast at their table.
This tradition began when they lived in Colorado. During those years, my husband (then boyfriend), Isamu and I would pack our warmest clothes and boots in preparation for the Colorado chill. We’d load our bags with books ~ the kind with recipes as well as the ones to read ~ and prepare for the mixed blessings of a family gathering.
You likely know what I mean. . .
There was always the comfort of being in the folds of my parents home. In those early years there was also the nervousness of bringing my boyfriend into the mix.; the fun of planning and preparing an extravagant meal; the satisfaction of eating the homemade goodness; and the inevitable tension around clean-up time. The latter due to my father’s propensity to run a tight ship without necessarily informing anyone of his plan-of-action.
I don’t know how many Thanksgiving there were like this before the one where Isamu’s entire family joined us for the festivities. That year our parents anticipated, with great glee, that we would announce our engagement. In fact, that was Isamu’s intention as well. Though he was unaware of the parental expectations, and I was oblivious to all their hypotheses.
We did not announce our engagement that Thanksgiving.
It happened at Christmas instead.
And that’s when I learned all the stories of the behind-the-scenes Thanksgiving plans.
With his deliberate and methodical resolve, Isamu had gotten lost in the research of how to choose the perfect diamond. He was spending every spare moment (of which there were few in his busy schedule), hunting the Bay Area for his prize. And due to his quest for excellence, his hopeful timing was delayed.
You see, for Isamu it wasn’t about the ring per se. In fact the diamond still sits in the default setting it came in, in a special compartment in my jewelry box where I placed it a couple of years after he died, over ten years ago now. (His motive, knowing how picky my tastes are, was to have me design my own setting to hold the diamond. But we never got to do that.)
As I stand in the kitchen now, rolling out gluten-free pie-crusts and creating the designs on top of raw chocolate cheezecakes with my niece, It’s inevitable for me to be brought back to those memories of holidays past. Isamu was the best pie edge crimper I’ve ever known and his love for food was so sensual that I was always so grateful to cook for him.
Those memories that I savor are ones of starting and building a family ~ of something that felt like spring in the midst of autumn.
Once again I return to the comfort of being in the folds of my parents (warmer!) home. I now rise to the exciting challenge and fun of preparing an extravagant meal to meet the differing dietary restrictions of everyone around the table. I look forward to the satisfaction of what I’m sure will be a meal prepared with love and gratitude and, most importantly, shared with those who have been a part of my past, present and future Thanksgivings — in both yearly reunion and in memory.
And I think we even figured out how to navigate the clean-up after all these years! For that I give thanks!
Though holidays can sometimes be tainted with dash of grief for many of us. .
- grief for lost ideals, grief for how we’ve changed or haven’t
- grief for traditions that have had to be altered (or maybe for ones that we wish would miraculously transform themselves)
- grief for the foods we wish we could eat without suffering tomorrow
. . . that grief brings an element of renewal that can be a blessing.
Grief is, in fact, the emotion associated with the season of autumn. In Retreat: A Late Autumn Cleanse (coming right on the heels of Thanksgiving to give you the opportunity to reset your good intentions amidst the holidays), we’ll delve into the benefits of moving with the season’s changes ~ with relation to agriculture, your food, your body, and your mental state.
In that class I’ll share a passage from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ book On Grief and Grieving:
We think we want to avoid the grief, but really it is the pain of the loss that we want to avoid. Grief is the healing process that ultimately brings us comfort in our pain. . . Grief is a necessary step in going from death to life.
This Thanksgiving I celebrate life, as Isamu did, and as I know he would have wanted his family to do. And I celebrate you, and all the steps you have taken this year to support your own true vibrancy and improved health.
I hope your plates are filled with the blessed patterns that holidays can offer; the return to tradition (old or adapted); faith in life, the bounty that is around you, and the promise that the year ahead holds; sweet rememberance of the people whose bodies no longer grace you at the table but whose presence is collectively held; and the gratitude that a meal shared with family and friends, or even chosen solitude, can bring.