“A Day of Publick Thanksgiving and Prayer”

November 27th, 2009

painting

Thanksgiving has always been turkey, ham, food in general.  It’s always at my parents’ house. Uncle Dan and Aunt Lily driving up the street, arriving from Chicago, in their black Cadillac. Aunt Lily carrying a tray of delicate powdered cookies, each with a circle of red or orange jelly in its center.  Football droning on the TV all day. My mom zigzagging the kitchen. I, waking up late, loitering, not really helping. Same with my sis and bro.

Sometimes we have special extra guests besides Uncle Dan and Aunt Lily, and they are always more warmth to our crisp November day. We always say grace before we eat. When it’s my mom’s turn to give thanks, she gets choked up with emotion. Uncle Dan always bows his head and chooses his words with care, always giving thanks for Aunt Lily. My brother once gave a sincere thanks. I usually throw in sarcasm or a joke, though I hope one day I won’t. My sister was engaged on Thanksgiving 3 years ago. My current brother-in-law, the poor guy, was forced by Aunt Lily to get down on one knee, after he surprised my sister with a ring. Apparently that was very teary as well, but my dad and his dad shoveled right back into their plates, while everyone else at the table cried. I was here in Lebanon, so missed the whole thing, but I saw a video.After the hours it takes to prepare the meal and the minutes we sit to eat it, the kitchen becomes a washing machine.

Then, the whole day shifts. It’s dusk now and part two of the day fades in. The football games are coming to an end. Lights are turned on in the kitchen. And the table is spread with a blanket in preparation for a little 7 1/2. For those of you who don’t know this game, it’s a card game similar to Blackjack, but rather than 21, your goal is 7 1/2. I won’t go into the rules until you put your quarters and dollars on the table. Aunt Lily hates when we play this. She thinks that gambling is the devil’s work. But, we get a kick out of her reaction, which has become a part of the tradition. Later in the night, the Peoria bars become a reunion ground. Years ago, I had an opportune conversation that spurred the friendship with one of my best friends today on a Thanksgiving “reunion” night. When I was in grade school, every Thanksgiving we made construction paper cornucopias overflowing with fruits and vegetables. I could open a museum with all the damn cornucopias I made. I love Thanksgiving because it’s one of the few holidays during the year which is predictably traditional. And primarily about being with family and reuniting. When you’re away, the memories are certainly tinged with nostalgia.

In these parts, there are a few Americans. And a few Lebanese who like Turkey. And so we’ve come together to eat and be merry, and reenact the true story of the Thanksgiving between the Native American Indians and the Pilgrims, who ate together in peace, harmony, and collaboration almost 400 years ago, before the opportunistic and judgmental Pilgrims, who had fled Europe’s bloody holy wars and relied on the Native Americans’ knowledge of the land to eat and survive, started badmouthing the Native Americans about their manners and religion which led to their murderous fighting and eventually a genocide.

Oh, I mean, we just reenacted  the first part. Yea, just the part up to “collaboration,” thankfully! We’ve got enough holy wars without adding another, over turkey dinner, no less! Truth be told, it was actually a union of strangers, where most of us met for the first time on this night.

The owner of the house, father of our hostess.

The owner of the house, father of our hostess.

hand

It's all in the hand gesture.

jido

The hostess, the cook, and grandpa (on the wall).

The spread.

The spread: a $150 turkey surrounded by a scrumptious stuffing and zucchinis dressed with cranberry! Baked sweet potatoes. Goat cheese salad. Baby spinach & beet salad. Yum.

grace2

Grace.

Deftly carved.

Deftly carved.

My empty plate next to some important looking people, in pics.

My empty plate next to some important looking people, in pics.

kidnap

Kathy telling her story of how she barely dodged a kidnapping in Egypt.

group

group2

A toast to Kathy's getaway.

Pizza Hut arrived, after a paranoid phone call from our hostess. She thought we would run out of food.

Pizza Hut arrived, after a paranoid phone call from our hostess. She thought we would run out of food.

final

All's well that ends well.

For an interesting point of view on the “real” first pilgrims to America and “lost histories”: French Connection

One Response to ““A Day of Publick Thanksgiving and Prayer””

  1. Hady Abi Abdallah says:

    I should not be here, but somehow I am, and loving this.

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