A Bare-Bones Thanksgiving

 

It was the smallest gathering
in our collective memory.

The beautiful teak dining table
that once stretched beyond the room
to accommodate 16 or more family members—
and an occasional guest girlfriend—
now comfortably sat
the few assembled.

We are the last seven
Standing members of
the family nucleus.
The oldest is 85, now;
the youngest, 48.

Loved ones, most of them older, have died;
younger ones are starting
New lives.

I. The Seating

At the head of the table,
My mother:
Oldest child of The Matriarch
who used to hold this honor.
Her two surviving children
sit on opposite sides of the table.
Her son to her left,
Her daughter (me) at the far corner.

On Mother’s right
sits her first sister, The Hostess,
whose own two children
also sit on either side of the table,
Son to the right of her,
Daughter at the far corner.

The Matriarch’s youngest daughter
sits at the foot of the table,
with me and The Hostess’s Daughter
completing the far corner.

II. The Dining

Traditions were upended!

The turkey was an untried brand—
Nature’s Own,
instead of the tried and true
Shady Brook Farms.

The pies, apple and sweet potato,
were Sara Lee’s
instead of Mrs. Smith’s.
[Gone are the days of Mrs. Oldham’s
And Mrs. Scott’s.]

Some things remained the same:
Sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, green beans,
Stuffing, cranberry sauce, and
Celery sticks.

Gone also were the pickle chips,
the turnips (which only the two older sisters liked anyway),
and the sweet potato pudding
(why serve them twice, anyway?),
replaced by corn pudding.

The Grace, once a Rite
bestowed upon the head of the table
or a hand-picked family member
notified in advance,
was tossed, offhand,
to me.

The Passing of the Food
Turned into a free-for-all
Poetry slam!

Each section of the table
Took the nearest food first,
and passed it along
only when another section
snappily called out for it—
Those stuck with vegetables
hollering for meat
and vice versa.

III. Reflection

The table went silent,
except for the clacking of knives and forks
against the fine china.

As the last bites were digested,
a moment of clarity:

Each of the seven of us
Lives alone,
Each in our own separate home.

IV. Making Room for Dessert

Then came the groans
from overstuffed stomachs,
the clearing of the table,
and easy conversation—

Family news
via cell phone photos shared,
the latest books we’ve read,
and a few naps.

V. The Great Thanksgiving

Finally, dessert—
A double celebration:
For the day of Thanksgiving
And the 3-days-early
Birthday Party
for my cousin,
Daughter of The Hostess.

Sweet potato pie
with slightly burnt crust
topped with whipped cream.

And a perfectly baked
Apple pie
For the woman of the hour.

A Miracle Child,
she will be 55 on Sunday!
Still alive
after five years of cancer.
With a new home,
despite a job layoff.

For the most fearless,
Bravest,
Blessed woman
in our midst,

We give Thanks.


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