Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go… well, actually, it was over about five rivers, and through zero woods, but 120 miles through North Dakota Prairie on a beautiful August morning, and we ended up at Cheri’s mom’s place for… Thanksgiving?
You see, Cheri’s sister, Lisa, lives by herself in Arizona, but comes north every summer to stay with Cher’s mom and enjoy something other than cooking-pizza-under-the-broiler heat. A couple of years ago in a conversation, somebody talked about Thanksgiving, and Lisa commented that she never gets Thanksgiving anymore since she is by herself, and it’s not worth going through the effort to make a whole feast, just for her. Of course, that set things into motion, and after only two years, we settled on the idea of having Thanksgiving for Lisa while she was staying up here. Immediately, the details started to raise their thorny little heads. Cheri’s mom’s place wasn’t really equipped to roast and bake and boil and create the feast that normally accompanies a Thanksgiving Day. Eventually, the idea oozed out of just having the thing catered by some restaurant or grocery in town. Members of the family started offering specific extra items, like pies and bars and cookies and cider and salads and breads, and it was beginning to come together as a pretty fair-sounding feast for the ages.
Two large issues remained. One, the date of the meal, where we would get together, had to happen prior to harvest beginning, which occurs starting in August. We had to act fast to get a time when everyone could come. How about Saturday? There you go. The next issue was a bit thornier, and goes by the ugly name of CoVid19. Did we really want to produce a nightly television item about a family up in Grafton, North Dakota, who got together for an early Thanksgiving – kind of almost Hallmark in the making – and ended up infecting the nearly 20 people who gathered? Whenever I hear about those stories, I always think to myself that they are natural ways to weed out the dumbest of our culture. Now, it seems, we were ready to launch into those same dumb and dangerous waters. Actually, as a result, we did pare down the numbers of family in attendance, who begged off for that very reason. That was ok – they could care for the hospital arrangements, and even the next step…
So, bright and early yesterday morning, Cheri and I over the rivered it all the way the feast for the day. Fourteen of us finally arrived at the home that seated about 8 comfortably – no social distancing for us, no sir! Olives and pickles and munchy stuff were brought out, and then the food was collected from the restaurant. Do you remember the picture of the great Who feast from the Grinch? I swear – the food just kept coming in: turkey, corn, potatoes, green beans, more corn, stuffing, salad, and the singularly largest stewpot of gravy I have encountered in many years! I expect they figured we would want to coat the tables and the chairs in a nice warm brown gravy sauce, or something like that. I was glad we had no little children for fear one might fall in and be lost…
With the food all set up, we prayed, and then squished our way in to start filling plates. The good thing was that there was no concern that any single item might run short, or frankly even run down to manageable levels. Every plate was heaped, and every eye bigger than one’s stomach, but we did our best! Moments after we had seemed to conclude the main meal, true to all Scandinavian households, it was time to bring forth the desserts! You know how it is, when after you have had a huge meal, you really have lost your appetite? It doesn’t matter – the table was covered with what would be the next overindulgence!
I think Lisa was pretty happy, and it was fun to create a memory different than the normal, since we are living in different-than-normal times. Beyond the food and feast, we also feasted and chowed down on fun conversations, lots of jokes and laughter, and some talking about things that were important – it’s amazing how many words you can fit in between mouthfuls. And it was Thanksgiving, even on August 1st, and it came because we were all thankful for the chance to celebrate whatever it was, and reclaim family.
With the day about over, the work began to divvy up the leftover food into containers and bags and the like. I’m still not sure what they did with all the gravy. A final ritual of standing in the back patio and having hundreds, yea thousands of photos taken of every branch of the family tree, and then we were off, over the rivering it again to wend our way back to Fargo, and unload our food provisions which should keep us for the next few weeks.
How do you say Thanksgiving? Throughout history, it has been common to have a feast and to gather and lift one another’s hearts in just being together. We do so on purpose – intentionally probably going overboard, because indeed, our eyes and our hearts and bigger than our stomachs, and so we set the feast of Thanksgiving with family, friends, and all those we love, or at least tolerate. I can tell you that it doesn’t have to be the fourth Thursday of November – sometimes it’s best celebrated the first Saturday of August – because that’s when Lisa can come, and we can come, and it’s worth doing.
Word for the day: uxorious. An important term – it comes from the Latin (of course) meaning “of or pertaining to a wife.” The word actually has two different expressions. It can mean that you are devoted, loving, doting on your wife, who of course is your all in all, your dearest darling, for whom you would do anything in this world. You live an uxorious existence. However, it also means that you are ruled by, submissive to, under the thumb of that darling woman… you wouldn’t dare do something contrary to her wishes because – well, let’s just go with “because you love her so…” and leave the other, more menacing and storm-cloud-darkening definition alone.
By the way, the word that refers to the same kind of approach to the husband is “maritorious.” Not meritorious, which is how the auto-correct on my computer wants it typed – it comes from maritus meaning “husband.” It’s stated that this is a far rarer term than the one dealing with one’s wife. And by the way, there is no such thing as a maritorious service medal.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.