By Rev. Dick Bennett
It was just one of those days you know. They happen every-so-often at various times of the year. The great family gathers together to celebrate the holiday’s specialness. Those who can’t be there are talked about; and the telephone robbers get to make a few extra buckos from the phone lines burning up from millions of calls to the absent ones. “Reach out and touch someone,” get in contact, check in! Time to share some of the essence of the day.
It was just one of those days you know. The day of the turkey, ‘the festival of overeating,’ the day of some separations between the men folk and the women folk as ball-games provide excuses for avoiding the tensions of community. As the pile of dishes teeter-totters toward the ceiling, the smell of Aunt Margaret’s stuffing fills the house causing involuntary twitches of the saliva glands.
It was just one of those days you know. As many of the cast as could be were gathered. While there were no more grandparents in this family, surely, they were present! Yes, right there … most present in relishes, recipes, and reminiscences. Why the essence of Grandpa Fred still sat in the corner winking and blinking and plotting his next craft-filled story. Where Grandpa Fred once sat, now sat Fred’s number-one son who had inherited the seat and some of his roll.
But something was missing here. Dad wasn’t Grandpa Fred; he hadn’t yet attained the age; he still had more to learn, he still had wisdom to garner; he still had praises and phrases to perfect. He was just plain-ole-dad who had gotten some smarter since sister had gone away to college, and since #1 son had just gone away for a while.
It was just one of those days you know. The ghost of Grandma Elsie drifted through the place trying to take some quiet charge. But it wasn’t her kitchen … and she would do her best to help … but not to take over!
But the ghost of Grandma Kate didn’t care whose kitchen it was … she’d be glad to take over anyway. The kitchen just wasn’t organized well enough. Grandma Kate, being absent, was filled in for by her daughter Aunt Margaret/Margaret/ or Peg/Peg (as the kids used to call her). Why one time Grandpa Fred said of his wife, Grandma Kate … and of course from the safety of his shop in the garage nearly 50 feet from the house and well out of her hearing … “Yup, young feller! You got yourself some real fine grandmother there … why she could make order out of a vacant lot … yes she could.”
It was just one of those days. Sister was home from college and boy had she gotten smarter! You could just feel it in the excitement of her eyes. She was waiting for ‘that moment’ to occur. OH, she’d wait for it … but she was really ready this year! She was going to hang right in there, sit right down and take a full place in the family conversation when the right moment presented.
But in the meantime, there was snacking, and preparations to make, and thinking to do. There was the mashing of potatoes, and slicing of turkey, and warming of rolls, and multiple last-minute preparations. There was listening, and storytelling, and not butting right in, and lots of forgiving to do. There was wondering who would take the lead this year in the storytelling.
It was just one of those days. But one could feel that something special was going to take place. There was a feeling of expectancy drifting and hanging in the air. I mean, this year the climate, the important spiritual climate upon this Thanksgiving Day gathering seemed to be blessed with some special energy.
“What is going on?” wondered Brother-on-leave-from-the-war. “I best be careful not to get Uncle Frank cranked up today. I just don’t want to talk about how things are going. I’m going to sit right tight and watch; I’ll probably over-eat, then nap in front of the ballgame. I wonder who is going to take the lead?”
It was just one of those days you know. The energy in the house seemed somehow more reverent and peaceful than any family gathering before.
Why conversations were gentle … people actually listened. It seems that everyone’s positive energy had arrived at the proper time … that people really did want to know how another was making out. Why, there were follow-up questions instead of interrupting statements.
Sister-Home-From-College started it off. She broke the family tradition of the eldest male always saying Grace. But first, she asked mom for the privilege.
Mom said: “ASK DAD!”
Dad said, “Are you working on something special?”
Sister said, “Give me a chance dad?”
“You bet,” said dad.
The moment for grace came. It was a good Thanksgiving Grace, but not great. Sister said some real fine words. Nobody commented or teased her for her breaking the long-standing family tradition.
Somewhere mid-way between the coffee, pumpkin, mince, and apple/raison pies, why Uncle Frank of all people started it off. He said, “Sister that was a beautiful grace. That was as fine a grace as I’ve heard from this family. Where did you get it from?”
Mom interjected and said, “It sounded like it came from her heart.”
Dad chimed in and said, “Amen!”
And the Brother-who-had-been-away said, “I really liked how you mentioned all the family members … that you could remember and how you were able to keep them straight and in order. BUT.…I thought that it was kinda-long.”
Aunt Margaret/Margaret said, “Long Yes! But accurate–oh YES! The feeling tones were what I really liked. Tell us now, Sister, where did you get the idea from?”
Sister replied, “I got the idea from the opening of Matthew’s Gospel where he gives the genealogy of the Lord.”
Aunt Margaret said, “You’re not turning into one of those holy-rollers now are you?” … (and for once Uncle Frank said nothing!)
It was just one of those days. Sister-home-from-college replied, “No … but I’m going to church regularly now because I miss my family and we have a real good church with a strong sense of community. Going to church helps to get me outside of myself, to lesson some of the loneliness that I feel being all that distance away. Going to church is now a part of my life and I feel that its helping me to grow.”
Uncle Frank said, “Well, I’ll be …. “
Sister-home-from-college kept it rolling along. “Last week the minister shared the long list of names from the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel, and I caught the idea of the human family and how much we each owe to God … how much we owe to our family … and how much we have to offer to each other even when we really don’t fully realize it. I just wanted to thank the whole family on this Thanksgiving Day … for all that you have given to me.
BUT Uncle Frank, who liked to argue with anybody….at any time, or any place, for little or no reason, said, “But weren’t some of those people on that list not really some of the finest you ever saw? Seems to me that there’s some real winners there.”
But Aunt Margaret/Margaret/Peg/Peg … golly, she could argue with the best of them … chimed in and said, “I think that that may be true; but when you consider the list as a whole there’s certainly something very great there. What Sister is sharing with us is the idea of the Human Family and its long line of folk who reach all the way back to God.
Trying to avoid the upcoming argument, the Brother-who-had-gone-away jumped in and said, “Yes, that is a super idea and when you stop to think about it, you have to confess that in our own family there’s some real fascinating characters. Why in just our family alone, let alone in the families of the ‘in-laws & the out-laws’ there are some people who have weathered some pretty amazing events… folks who stood up to the tests of their times pretty well.”
Another one said, why I think it was the cousin from the other coast for crying out loud, “Well, that may be true, but we had some folk who didn’t hold up too well you know.”
And a still-younger-one chimed in saying: “Well I want to know about Uncle Winky. He sure was some character!”
And somebody else on the junior limb of the family tree said, “No, we talked about Uncle Winky last time. I want to hear the stories about Grandpa Fred, and how he got along with Great-Grandpa Kahn, and how Grandpa Fred carried all those families through the Depression years, and how some of them never even thanked him and how he never let that bother him … despite all the good advice he got!”
And someone else said, “Hold on there young fella….it seems that you already know that story … already. Why do you have to hear it again?”
And the young fella came back with….”I like to hear the family stories during holiday times. Listening to the family talk puts pictures in my mind. The people that you talk about are my people too; it helps me to know the stories that helped me to become me.”
And Uncle Frank said, “Well, well, it seems as though we are growing a family historian here. But I want to ask Sister-home-from-college more about where she’s getting all her ideas.”
And Sister said–it was just one of those days you know– “Last week at our Bible study…….”
Frank interrupted, “Bible study?”
Sister continued, “we were looking at a beautiful passage from Colossians 1 where it said: “MAY YOU BE STRENGTHED WITH ALL POWER, ACCORDING TO GOD’S GLORIOUS MIGHT, FOR ALL ENDURANCE AND PATIENCE WITH JOY, GIVING THANKS TO GOD, WHO HAS QUALIFIED US TO SHARE IN THE INHERITANCE OF THE SAINTS IN LIGHT.” Col 1:11f
“I thought that this passage just plain sounded like Thanksgiving to me. ….. This idea of the human family coming from God, and led by the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ, strengthens me by giving me some gentle power of my own. It is lonely ‘out there’ in the world … even as it’s been lonely sometimes ‘in here‘, yes ‘right here,‘ during the holidays sometimes. Sometimes holidays cry out for endurance with patience;‘ but the scriptures sure helped me this year to see more of the ‘joy’ in our being gathered together. We come from a family which has endured some tough times and that’s just what the saints had to do.”
Aunt Margaret said, “Well, that’s really beautiful Sister and I’m glad that you shared all of that with us! There’s something really special in what you’re sharing. … Would anybody like to take their next coffee into the living room, have another plate of pie, check out the score of the ball game, take a nap, or just keep on talking right here where we are?”
The Brother-who-had-gone-away-for-awhile said, “I am feeling the joy of your sharing and I am glad that I came home. Thank you all for welcoming me back. But I’ve had too much to eat right now … I’d like to take a walk.”
It was just one of those days you know. Why, Uncle Frank, of all people said: “Why don’t we all take a walk? Let’s move around a little bit as a family and see what’s going on about town?”
And the Brother-who-came-home-from-the-war said, “Sister you started us out with a prayer, could we end our meal with a prayer today?”
And Aunt Margaret-Margaret, whose delicious stuffing was causing the necessity of movement, or a nap, said, “Why you’re not becoming one of those holy rollers now are you?”
And Dad, with the twinkle of Grandpa Fred in his eye, said, “We should thank God for the privilege of our being together. Do you have a prayer for us Sister?”
And Sister said, “I have learned a prayer that I would like to share.”
And Uncle Frank said, “AMEN!”
And mom said, “FRANK!”
And Sister said, “LET US PRAY……Almighty God, Creator of time and all amazing things, we thank you for this day. We thank you for our family memories which sustain us throughout our lives. We ask for your abiding care. Put far from all folks, we pray, every root of bitterness, the desire for vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill our families, and in families the world around, with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, and Godliness. Knit together in constant affection an enduring love for all Creation. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents, so to enkindle thoughtful kindness among us all, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!”
And everybody said, “AMEN!”
And Dad got up and went and sat in Grandpa Fred’s chair to wait for everyone to get organized.
And Aunt Margaret-Margaret, (Gramma Kate’s only daughter) … of all people, said, “Let’s just let these dishes set for a while.”
And the Brother-who-had-been-away said, “I’ll wait for you all outside.”
And the Brother-who-had-come-home-from-war checked out the ball scores.
And Uncle Frank, of all people said, “Can I walk with you a-ways Sister-home-from-college? I want to ask you more about this Bible Study you have been learning so much from.”
It was just one of those days. The family gathered in the Spirit of Thanks for God’s Blessings in their midst. Amen.