Thanksgiving of 1970 brought considerable consternation to the 30 relatives assembled at my parent’s house when my older brother came home from Harvard and bravely announced his liberal political views. My father reacted as if his firstborn child had betrayed the family honor and was responsible for the pending destruction of society. The women huddled in the kitchen until my brother apologized and then they emerged with trays of gooey desserts. I learned from this experience to keep quiet and eat pie.
The following day, after all the womenfolk had washed dishes and cleaned the kitchen, we sat at the dining table to finish the leftovers. My brother mentioned that he had sent a letter to the editor of the Twin Falls newspaper in support of Democratic Senator Frank Church. My father pounded his fist on the table and announced that there would be no more money for college. My brother retracted the letter. I learned from this experience to earn scholarships to an inexpensive, in-state university.
My mother used the same fist-smeared dining table for more than 40 years. It was a round Cushman table that despite all her handmade coverings and best dishes could never create the Norman Rockwell images she craved. My brothers and I learned early to avoid any provocative conversation that could upset our father. I once ate six pork chops just so I wouldn’t need to talk with anyone. My questions, concerns, good news, and typical teenage angst were smothered in mounds of mediocre mashed potatoes.
In my opinion, the dining table should be the foundation of the home. In a perfect world, it’s where the family gathers to break bread, play board games, and read the newspaper. It’s natural to want what was lacking, and I made it an important goal to have a happy family gathered around the table. For most of my adult life, that wish came true as my children grew up and we shared Thanksgiving feasts around a table laden with delicious choices amidst the sounds of laughter. For that, I am profoundly grateful.
This week 16 family members gathered around our dining room table, and I gazed at each one with gratitude. Hours later, after the satiated guests had gone home, I reflected on the hidden blessings of life. Because of past physical and emotional pain, I can truly appreciate the present freedom and joy. I realize that early trauma was the motivational catalyst I needed to survive. When crap was dumped in my way, I pulled on my boots and climbed over it.
My father died 24 years ago and the fractured family broke apart. But his success in business allowed me the opportunity to start my own business and buy a good dining table. I wish he could have joined us this week. We would discuss questions, concerns, good news, and typical parental angst. I’ve learned from this experience that gratitude mixed with forgiveness taste sweet.
Today’s blog is fueled by a 2011 Barbera from Jacuzzi Family Vineyard in Sonoma, California. This inviting wine bursts with vibrant flavors with a hint of vanilla. Share a few glasses with a favorite friend and gratefully celebrate the abundance of today.