The elapsed time from when we gathered to pray over the food and when the first child asked to be excused from the table was about fifteen minutes. I momentarily considered denying the petition and requiring more family togetherness, trying to stretch out the Thanksgiving meal. Except I could see that two other children were also nearly done eating and I didn’t really see the point. Four hours of preparation, fifteen minutes of eating time. If the time spent eating is the focal point of the holiday, then I could easily feel frustrated or like the holiday was not all it should be. Except Thanksgiving is not just the part where everyone sits down and eats. Thanksgiving is the kids squabbling in the back yard because I sent three of them outside to bag leaves, but two of them are more interested in playing parachute with the garbage bags. It is the dance Howard and I do around each other as I’m preparing rolls and he’s making mashed potatoes. We trade off counter space, spatulas, and measuring utensils, taking turns at the sink. Then we flow easily into making stuffing and chicken preparation. Thanksgiving is me organizing the linen closet because it has been out of control for months and somehow neat stacks of linen make me feel ready to decorate for Christmas. Thanksgiving is requiring the kids to clean up their stuff so that the front room is ready to host our Christmas tree. Thanksgiving is bright sunlight and cool air which we draw through the kitchen with a fan because the oven has been on all morning. Thanksgiving is me sitting in the kitchen with the dirty plates and left overs while the voices of the kids playing games float from downstairs. The whole day is the holiday, not just the part where we eat food.
Part of me wants to photograph everything from the scattering of half full glasses on the table to the dirty dishes in the sink. Today my eyes find beauty in all all of it. These things tell me stories about family and togetherness. Unfortunately the photographs would just show dirty dishes in a chipped porcelain sink. I can not preserve Thanksgiving. I have to let it go so that we can move onward to what comes next. In this case the very next thing is kitchen clean up. Tomorrow we’ll haul Christmas out of storage and arrange it all over the house.
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