We had thought to go to my daughter’s near Lancaster, PA, but instead we stayed home.
The summer had been as stressful as any I remember, with software training, conferences—a whirl of professional activity and a family reunion. It seems like I never quit traveling—and never quite recovered.
The school year too had been stressful—budget cuts, people worried about their jobs, pressure to create new programs. And I’m traveling to India in January with students, feeling tired already. So it was decided. We needed rest. A quiet day. At home.
People asked us over. People wanted to come over. We said no. Our home is usually full of guests on holidays and often in-between. We like to include others; we like to share our home. But we said no.
This doesn’t mean we didn’t celebrate. This doesn’t mean we were not thankful. And celebration does include food, right? So we sat down to a wonderful meal with Pilgrim, our son who lives at home. (Everyone needs a Pilgrim on Thanksgiving after all.)
Last Sunday I heard Donna Hay, an Australian chef, on the Splendid Table talking about how Americans should refresh their traditional side dishes—and so we did. I posted the menu on Facebook, before Katie asked me not too. She didn’t want to draw attention to our not being with family.
What we had was golden baked onion, roasted Brussels sprouts with fennel, herb-roasted cauliflower, spiced cranberry sauce, roast turkey with potatoes and gravy. (Hay must have been right—55 people liked the post.)
It was simpler than it sounds and more wonderful than we imagined. Not one but two leisurely days, no schedule to keep, preparing food together, experiencing new tastes, napping when we wanted, eating in our pajamas. Breakfast around 10, with eggs, bacon or sausage, and creamy grits— with goat cheese and garlic.
A light lunch—beet and yogurt soup with celery and apple salad today. Dinner when it was ready, late both days. Tonight we had roasted chestnuts with baked brie and left over cranberry sauce. Late last night coffee with a small piece of chocolate, later this evening pecan pie. Tomorrow, really great leftovers.
There were few dishes to put away. After a little chopping or slicing, we just put the onions, the cauliflower and the Brussel sprouts in the oven. We did the turkey in a roster on Tuesday, and Pilgrim made all the dishes that start with a P—potatoes and pecan pie. We relaxed, we laughed, we sang, we gave thanks. We enjoy preparing good food for others. As it turns out, we enjoy preparing it for ourselves too. Few things elicit gratefulness as much as good food, thoughtfully and lovingly prepared.
There will be other Thanksgivings with the happy stress of grandchildren, family and friends. We will have strength and joy in our purposeful engagement with others. Tomorrow we go back to work: chores, shopping, decorating, ministry. Protein shakes for breakfast.
But these last two days we got exactly what we needed. What everyone needs from time to time.
And we are thankful.