On the Long Thanksgiving Dinner

Some years ago, my wife directed a wonderful production of “The Long Christmas Dinner” by Thornton Wilder. In this play, the story of several generations of a family is told symbolically with family gathered at a long table for Christmas dinner. We see family members age and, when their time comes, they rise and slowly walk through a black curtain. Some young people walk through that curtain. Others leave the table quite suddenly.

For me, that table is set at Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. I can see generations gathered about that table. Many have gone through the Black Curtain, some quite suddenly, some way too young.

One of my sisters never even makes it to the table. She comes to the table and leaves immediately through the Black Curtain. My other sister sits for only a moment, then also leaves.

But I also see many loved ones who sat at that table many times. My parents and my brother are there. Although she is aged, my Mom leaves the table quickly while my father takes a long slow walk to the Black Curtain.

I see old Aunt Margaret, she who was in Paris when Lindbergh landed. She who saw Babe Ruth play baseball (“Clumsiest man I ever saw!”). She who, in her 90s, gave me the finest anti-war sentiment I ever heard as she shook her head and said “So many young men.”

There are my Uncle Gaddy and Aunt Peg, my surrogate grandparents. I never sat at the table with my grandmothers. They had walked through the Black Curtain before I arrived there. My grandfathers were also gone by the time I was 7. So these two wonderful people filled a great void — Gaddy with his burly Irish accent, the smell of cigars about him and Peg, maker of the World’s Greatest Peanut Butter cookies.

Aunt Mary is there, she who was schizophrenic, carrying on a constant patter of self-talk or reading romance novels.

I see too my Uncle Joe and Aunt Kathleen. She was sophisticated and helped John F. Kennedy carry the vote in Rhode Island. He was a veteran of the South Pacific, down-to-earth, smoking a cigarette as he was dying of lung cancer. Among many things, he helped me love the Redsox.

I see my Aunt Dorothy, my father’s only sibling. She who never married and the day after she retired, quit drinking, packed up and moved to California to be closer to my brother, leaving behind a stunning example of courage.

Time passes and new life comes on-stage. There is my wife who has taught me all I know about loving. My children are there, at first young with heads bowed expressing what they were thankful for. Then three of my children come to the table with spouses and children of their own. My fourth child arrives resplendent in the robes of a new PhD.

There are others who sit for a while. My boss at the mental health clinic on Ft. Bliss who always came with a voracious appetite. Other friends came once and then moved on to other tables. There is my son’s friend who came to the table last year, full of joy and enthusiasm, then suddenly walked through the Black Curtain this past summer.

So, as I return to that table next week, I will bow my own head and be grateful that I have been blessed with such bounty throughout my own Long Thanksgiving Dinner

Reflection: 1. Do you have a Long Thanksgiving Dinner story to tell? Is it a happy story? Sad? Both?

Thanksgiving for me requires that this song be played. It must be sung by Perry Como!

About richp45198

I am a clinical psychologist and have an abiding interest in matters spiritual.
This entry was posted in spirituality and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to On the Long Thanksgiving Dinner

  1. Chas Thomas says:

    What an incredible blog! Do you mind if I share this with some friends on Facebook?

    Like

  2. Susan says:

    All of my blood relations (except my parents) were behind the curtain by the time I was 11 years old. That is what happens when there is 40 years between generations. Perhaps that is why my family members and I were allowed to occasionally peek through the curtain. When I was young my parents were separated by long military deployments and later by choice. I spent many Thanksgivings at other peoples’ table and my memory of these times is good. Thanksgiving is a holiday (unlike Christmas) when people are likely to invite non-family members to the table. When I formed my own nuclear family, I also invited others to the table (mostly deployed soldiers). In my nuclear family the Thanksgiving dinner is non-traditional. In my own family, East has met West, both philosophically and culturally. We are as likely to have steamed rice or Jai (rice soup) as we are to have mashed potatoes. We are as likely to have Bok Choi (Chinese cabbage) as we are to have green beans. And we are as likely to have Gau for dessert as Pumpkin pie. If you have not tried Gau, you should give it a chance. It is delicious. I don’t know if I will see my grand children come to the table because of the 40 year gap between generations so I might have to peek at them from behind the curtain. I don’t know if anyone in our family will ever attain a doctoral level degree. I have a very smart, young son who is 13 but doesn’t always have self-discipline. I can’t imagine where that comes from.

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  3. Susan says:

    Correction: My husband says that Rice Soup is called Juk (rice soup with chicken or turkey). Jai (which I previously mentioned) is monk food (steamed rice with vegetables). Okay, I admit it, I’m not cooking this, I am just eating it.

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  4. richp45198 says:

    Reblogged this on Psyche and Spirit/Richard B. Patterson PhD and commented:

    A few days late. Since I first wrote this, a few more loved ones have left our table and walked through the black curtain. I am grateful for all the wonderful loved ones.

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  5. Winston peters says:

    Dear Ritch ,I must say you come up with the most opproperiate posts ,winston

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  6. Michael Johnson says:

    Thanks Rich, once again for sharing your insight, compassion, and faith. I am truly fortunate to have been mentored by you, it touches everything I do. mj

    Like

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