Every Thanksgiving in our church, we gather up the harvest of the year in the form of vegetables, fruit, brightly coloured and creatively formed gourds, pumpkins, and squash, preserves, bread, sunflowers, mums, and brilliantly painted fall-leaf garlands. We then place them lovingly on the altar, bringing thanks to God like the people of old (except, no burning sacrifices - fire codes, and such, have changed slightly since biblical times).
I love Thanksgiving. A time devoted especially to saying Thank You, geninuinely, which, in my opinion, is a lost art. You either say thank you all the time or you don't, and both run the risk of losing the gracefulness of paying homage to someone that has done something for you. My husband, when he served behind that gloriously decorated altar on Thanksgiving morning, said that when you say "Thank you" you're really saying "I love you for what you've done for me." And it could be small, like scanning your groceries at the check-out, or it could be big, like being a surrogate for a family who can't conceive. The beauty of thank you is that for one moment you get to humble yourself, bow figuratively, and say, "I love that you took the time to do this for me." How beautiful of a season, how eloquent of a holiday, and how necessary it is to remember to do this, everyday every chance you get.
After this tradition of decorating the altar, though, is the bringing down of the plenty, which has it's own beautiful symmetry. We lay things on the altar to say thank you and then remove them when we're done, passing them onto people who need the food, need the love, need the thank you for the year past.
Some things, though, aren't needed. In fact, they are almost luxurious in quality. Like pumpkins or brightly coloured squash of every variety. Tasty? Yes. Proof of God's imagination? Yes. Necessary? Not like potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, apples, pears, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, and grapes. These items are a struggle to get rid of. As a faith that does not celebrate Hallowe'en, we have trouble moving things that others would snatch and carve in a heartbeat.
One sister at church, elderly, wise, and crusty beyond belief, came up to me, trying to sell me a large pumpkin.
"Julia, you know what I used to do? I used to take pumpkin, cook it, mash it, measure it out, and then freeze it. You can have pumpkin all year!" She looked at me like she had just unlocked a homemaking treasure, one that would lift me above the heartache of dishes and cleaning and dusting and cooking.
What could I say to her? I had taken 6 pumpkins and had done just that last week with the leftovers from a Sunday School craft and had 4 pumpkin-pie measurements in my tiny, one-bedroom-apartment-fridge-freezer already. I had no room for a huge, regular size pumpkin.
So what did I say? I told her just that, that I would, if I could, but I can't.
What should I have said, in the spirit of things?
Thank you, for that advice. For giving me a moment of 80 years of wisdom that comes from raising 8 children, all of whom are still faithful to God's work. For wanting to share that with me, a newbie in the world of all things homemakerish.
I hope next year I can take the time to tell her thank you, to say "I love you" in a way that means so much more than, "I know."