Our family’s 2016 Thanksgiving celebration took place at my 88-year-old Grandmother’s tenement apartment. This is where we gathered to give thanks for our shared histories and scribe new stories on the scrolls of time. For this reason, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.
Today’s Thanksgiving Paradox
I’m adultly aware, our American history is full of paradoxes. Withstanding the fact, that the origin of the Thanksgiving holiday was not a picturesque scene of provisions, but smithereens of distorted truths amplified to absurd conclusions. This Thanksgiving mythology has been narrated for generations, harvesting untruths in our historical memories. This currency of romanticized American history, where dead white men are perfect gods, subsidizes a bankrupted belief system at the expense of cultural and individual freedoms.
Standing Rock Sioux Reservation
Our historical knowledge informed our talk about the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the harm it will bring to the indigenous people of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.*
The talking points discussed were:
- The environmental warfare from water contamination, and
- The decimation of burial sites and sacred places.
My family concluded, this reckless capitalistic behavior is to aid:
- America’s addiction to fossil fuel, and
- To endow riches to the corporate bobble
*Newsworthy update: On 12/4/2016 the Army Corps of Engineers denied permission for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under a section of the Missouri River.
My Thanksgiving learned lessons are simple
- Tradition is powerful.
- History is repeated.
- Freedom is at a cost.
The 5 “F”s that are at the heart of my family’s Thanksgiving storied experience
My family experiment is varied and messy at times violates the Hollywood family formula. In our family, there is no room for cowards when it comes to loving each other wholeheartedly. I am thankful daily to practice courageous acts of love and forgiveness with my familial folk. And despite everything I know to be right about perfect love, familial love ain’t always easy.
Family forgiveness is a labor of love and a constant practice.
I flourish as an individual moving in this world because my family is the supporter of my intangibles, the hidden crevices that are invisible to the casual onlooker. My family provides a protected space for care, cover and cohesion for my human spirit.
“But obviously, this is not the love of complacency, or affection, that is, it was not drawn out by any excellency in its objects.”
As quoted from the: Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words
My family is a praying body of souls. However, my cousin who is not the church-going, bible-quoting, amen-saying, religious kind, is often the first to prompt our family tradition of praying before we eat. I am unsure if it is because she is hungry or her spirit hungers for a different kind of soul food.
Loving is an act of faith.
As we prepared for our public worship of the food, we gathered around my Grandmother’s bed which included my Grandmother’s Home Health Aide. With our heads bowed, eyes lowered, and hands held together — my Grandmother led us in prayer to give thanks for our shared lives of compassion and love.
Food is the love language of my family and cooking is a heated expression of that love.
For this 2016 Thanksgiving harvest, we got: “…Beans, Greens, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Lamb, Ram, Hogs, Dogs, Beans, Greens, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Chicken, Turkeys, Rabbit. You name it”! Oh wait, that was Shirley Caesar.
Our family feast included the traditional African American dishes of slow-cooked collard greens, slow-cooked stuffing (dressing), potato salad, yams (sweet potatoes), pineapple ham, turkey breast, and cranberry-orange relish to name a few. The cranberry-orange relish dish made its table debut several years ago after my Grandmother insisted on the cylindrical rippled cranberry sauce from her past. I was against such table rubbish. I decided to master-mix an old classic to appease my taste buds and hers. Upon sampling the cranberry-orange relish, my Grandmother rubbed my culinary ego and gave the dish four stars (★★★★). One thing to know about my Grandmother, she is the Czar of food reviews. In other words, she is the human upgraded version of Yelp.com with the added feature of year-over-year comparison data to spew. As heard from my Grandmother this Thanksgiving, “Your potato salad is better this year. Last year, it was a bit dry and needed more mayo”. When you are almost 90, you have the license to say whatever you feel and think. This provision comes in the aging contract.
To everyone’s delight, Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t single digit body mass index (BMI) approved. Because in Grandmother’s house — poultry and people ought to have meat on their bones. My Grandma would say to me growing up: “Girl, you better put some meat on those bones.” Nowadays, I’m working hard to do just the opposite.
When my family gets together, our communication rituals are multiple conversations swinging back and forth to a clock that has no arms. We are distracted and entertained by each other and not devices.
After dinner, we played the game Heads Up! This was my first time playing this game. My gaming behavior is a cross between a turtle, a shark, and a parrot. That is, I am slow, competitive, and redundant — I’m an all-around badass. Well actually, my Grandmother is the Original Badass (OB) of the family. My Grandmother participated in our tomfoolery responding with the correct answers to our animated clues and getting high-fives along the way. During the game, I doled out descriptions and stories for words shown on the screen instead of short clues. Since I was caught up in my head space, I would continue my rhetoric, long after the player guessed the word correctly. My cousin would repeatedly say, “Rochelle, move on.” My rebuttal, was “Y’all should have detailed the rules of the game in a .pdf form and provided a copy for my review. This way, I would know how to play the game correctly” Otherwise, I’m gonna make “ish” up, as I go.”
In my Smokey Robinson voice, “I’m the life of the party because I tell a joke or two.”
My Grandmother has been talking a lot lately about a facet of freedom that occurs when flesh changes to an otherworldly form. This is the evolutionary agenda for our human condition. I fret over such monologues but understand the transitions and passages of the living.
I am thankful, my Grandmother is breathing life into our family story. Fortifying traditions at every turn. Rhetorically, wondering why freedom still isn’t free?
My Thanksgiving lessons are simple.
Tradition is powerful.
History is repeated.
Freedom is at a cost.
Read my other written work.
Until the next time – I adore you for reading my blog,