Thursday, November 25, 2010

Blessings, Wherever You find Them

The season has definitely turned; I've been on the lookout for stems with decorative seedpods, interesting twigs, and greenery that's relatively "un-nibbled". As the month has progressed, I've been out cutting them as a part of my yearly ritual. I've changed it some, but it is part of a family tradition.

Fancy dinners were rare in our home, but great effort and care went into them. Most meals were eaten in the kitchen, but for holidays we used the dining room. Out came the beautiful tablecloth, good silverware, crystal, and precious china. I was shown the correct way to set a table - proper placement of the knife, spoon, dinner and salad forks; position of salad plates, water and wine glasses; use of a cloth napkin. There was the quick course on how to receive and pass the serving dishes and where elbows belonged! I loved helping to prepare shrimp cocktails in Mom's special cranberry-colored glasses and watching that big brown turkey finally come out of the oven. We often had a guest on these occasions, usually a widower or single person with no family nearby. We were an informal family, so there was the awkward moment as we settled into our chairs, but after a heartfelt grace was said wine and conversation flowed, Dad began to carve the turkey, and a warm glow took over. As a child, such a feast was rare and I felt full halfway through dinner. I felt bad not being able to eat everything as I knew how hard Mom had worked preparing that meal. I was never chastised for that, but I was expected to remain at the table until everyone was finished. The older I got, the more I appreciated the adult conversation that took place at the table during those times. Invariably, one topic always emerged - sincere gratitude for what we had.

I came to realize the tough times my parents endured during the depression of the 30s. They had little money and did without much, but they "made do". They, and thousands like them, survived by raising and preserving their own food, making their own clothes, and working long days into the night. Friends supported each other and gathered together in homes for entertainment and to celebrate special occasions, sharing simple meals and enjoying each other's company. Because my parents worked in the floral business, they always had flowers. With time and hard work, they eventually owned their own floral business. A special arrangement was always made for our table, and no holiday would be complete without it. A constant reminder, I think, of simple beginnings.

I have carried on the tradition as best as I can. Wherever we've lived, whatever the conditions, we've celebrated holidays with family or friends, a home-cooked meal, and some kind of table arrangement. I've scoured woods, meadows, and roadsides to make bouquets and eaten roast turkey on a card table while sitting on packing crates. I, too, am forever grateful - for family and friends, a warm kitchen, heady cooking aromas...and flowers. They are, after all, wherever you find them.

You are my God, and I will give you thanks;
You are my God, and I will exalt you.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Psalm 18:28-29

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