By Cheryl-Anne Millsap
Special Correspondent to Pinch
I cook the same meal each Thanksgiving, by request, and seldom make any dramatic changes to the menu. So each November the house fills with the savory fragrance of our traditional meal. Sage, celery seed, pepper and onion in the Southern cornbread dressing. Cinnamon, brown sugar, pecans on top of the buttery sweet potatoes. The unmistakable aroma of roast turkey and fresh rolls.
The scents that surround us that day are comforting and familiar and pull each of us back in time. My children can close their eyes and connect the dots of their memories, recalling similar meals in different houses and cities.
Alone in the kitchen, a big yellow ware bowl and a faded recipe on the counter, I remember my own childhood, standing in my grandmother’s kitchen with my brother and sister, one of her aprons tied under my arms, a big mixing spoon in my hand, the house full of aunts, uncles and cousins who will gather around the big table in the dining room...
We’ve been lucky so far. We’ve always managed to be together, even when it wasn’t easy to get everyone in the same room at the same time. Although with busy schedules and new relationships things could change at any time, my children have never spent a holiday apart.
Each year, as we sit down to the table to admire the food and the place settings and the pumpkin in the centerpiece, before taking a bite, we go around the table letting each one of us state what it is that we are most thankful for.
Occasionally, someone says something outrageous. Or funny. Now and then one of us is completely irreverent. But, over the years, I’ve noticed the list of things each of us is most thankful for is consistent. It is simple and basic.
“I am thankful for my family,” we always say.
“I am thankful for my room.”
“I am thankful for my house.”
“I am thankful for my pets.”
“I’m glad to be home.”
“I am glad we are all healthy.”
“I am thankful finals are over at last.”
Sometimes, when one of us has had a bad year, and there have been a few bad years, the gratitude is more poignant. More personal. Sometimes we fidget, shifting in our chairs or someone coughs to hide his or her discomfort. Occasionally there are tears. And almost always a little laughter.
Although it isn’t often said out loud – my children are only just beginning to comprehend this – I know the blessing we are all silently counting when we list the little things, the comforts of home, the affection of pets or the bonus of having a room of one’s own, is the privilege of looking around to see those much-loved and familiar faces around the table for another year.
That, as we all learn sooner or later, is the sweetest taste of Thanksgiving. It is the sweetest gift of all.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer living in Spokane. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and public radio stations across the country and she is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.