Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Thanksgiving Day Reflection


Normal Rockwell's painting of a family's Thanksgiving feast, probably best captures the holiday the way I remember it.  However, we didn't get dressed up (we dressed down, comfortably); and there were way too many people cramming into our nearly 1200 square foot home, or that of one of my mother's other siblings, to fit around one table.  Thanksgiving was probably that way, or much like it is shown in the painting.  Sometimes there was even a a non-family member or two at Thanksgiving or Christmas Day feasts - the poor souls who had no where else to go.  Maybe that's why I connect so well with reruns of The Walton's.  Life for me growing up was different from that, yet had similarities.

I miss those days, as aptly as my mother often predicted I would.  She spent  much of her adult life lamenting the loss of holidays as she remembered them in the big three story house on Russell Street in Detroit, where it too was crammed full of people in every nook and cranny, including people with no where else to go on a holiday.

With the passing of a family patriarch or matriarch, things change and family members go their separate ways.  The first thing that collapses are the big family dinners.  Lots of things are behind it.

In some cases, younger family members enjoyed the great feasts, but never took an interest in learning how to cook it  (even my mother lamented not being able to make things taste exactly as her grandmother's cooking).  Some mothers were so eager to see the family eat, they didn't bother to ensure a new generation would know the trade, so to speak.  It's intimidating.  My own pastor announced in the bulletin last week that, with the passing of his own mother recently, he is hosting his family at the parish and making them dinner.

In other cases, a matriarch or patriarch are like glue that holds a family together when they otherwise wouldn't want to be together.  Part of the problem today is that some just don't want to be around others they don't care for or have much in common with.  Yet, pearls are created with friction.  There was a time when parents made children sit with relatives out of respect and charity.  In some cases, parents let their kids hide in their rooms for whatever reason and the net effect was an inability to socialize or be around people they don't like.  For a Christian, learning to be around others you didn't feel like being around was one way to sharpen virtues - something rarely discussed in a society that values a certain "edginess" and "independence."

I can appreciate what I witness in those Walton's reruns I enjoy -- each episode dealing with the ordinary challenges of daily life and the Christian response to them.  Many today have been formed by Roseanne whose main character, of the same name, ushered in the "edge" which opposed the very virtues programs like The Walton's built.  People came to value the snark of, "The Simpsons" perhaps because one of the main characters, who coined the expression, "eat my shorts," said what was on his mind without reserve.  There are people who think it takes courage to tell someone else off the way Roseanne or Bart Simpson would.  To me, it's the easy way out.  There's nothing really in Scripture to support it.

Other things that have broken down the big family meals are the natural separation that comes when family members move to distant places - be it local, yet distant; or out of state.  This happens.  Some prefer it that way; others do it out of necessity.

Now, more than ever, consumerism and materialism continue to erode family values.  It's good to give gifts; but sometimes the best thing to give is yourself.  Focus on what is good in others; not on what annoys you about them.  Talk about the things you have in common; not the things that separate you. Use this season to love others, to listen to others, and to learn from others.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving and be sure to give thanks to God. Every breath we take is because He wills it.




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2 comments:

TNP said...

Our Christmas dinner is always private, just our immediate family. But at Thanksgiving we open the door friends and extended family. This year we'll have our new daughter-in-law's parents and siblings, a young couple from our parish who are far from their families,and a well-respected priest who reads to us George Washington's proclamation.

Yesterday morning at daily Mass I met up with a woman I hadn't seen in years. A single mom, she was to be alone today, her kids grown and gone. I thought to invite her, but hesitated. I got in my car and left. Leaving the parking lot I noticed she was in the car behind me. I stopped, got out, and ran to the driver's side. I told her dinner would be at 5. Her eyes filled with tears as she thanked me but said, "I probably won't come." I repeated, "Dinner is at 5." I hated that I hesitated at first, but glad I acted.

As we're passing plates of meat, potatoes, salads, and sauces around, each person takes a turn sharing what they've been most thankful for in the past year. That moment can be light or sobering.

Thank you for your blog. It is written with integrity and prudence. I admire your style. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

TNP

debbie said...

Beautifully said. Especially the part about not really enjoying being around some of your family members but doing it anyway. That's exactly what happened yesterday and it turned into a very blessed time together. Two nephews and a nice even came home to spend a couple of nights with us, and we almost didn't go to the family dinner because there are years of tensions between our two families. Praise be to God.