It’s funny how this sneaked up on me. The month of November marks 25 years since Bob entered full-time associate ministry and our merry little band of family dragged into Poulsbo, Washington in a pounding evening rainstorm in two 26-ft. U-Haul trucks, Bob driving one with two kids, his brother Karl driving the other with zero kids, and Yours Truly behind the wheel of the minivan with baby, toddler and dog. We all arrived at different times because we got separated in Seattle rush hour and one of us ended up at the Bremerton shipyards in the dark and could’ve really used cell phone technology, but I digress . . .
It is no small thing to pick up a family out of a newly built house and leave a happy life of friends and job and church. To seemingly abandon all that was worked for in careers. To start swallowing a mortgage month by month as the shiny fresh house sat on the market. To move into a place that was foreign and ask for immediate adjustment of the children to new everything–people, school, home and church. To smile through the silently loud naysayers who couldn’t imagine it being wise or prudent or even legitimate. To go. To not stay. And to do it together. Looking back it seems crazy. And daunting. Back then though it just was what had to happen. Glad I don’t have to do it today. Because it WAS crazy. And would we make the same decision knowing what we know? You bet your bottom dollar. And I look back with a grateful heart. Bob does too. And we give thanks.
Soon after the BIG MOVE, Thanksgiving rolled around. With our family added to our pastor’s family (already friends of ours from way back), we had at least 11 at the table. I say “at least” because I honestly can’t remember anything but kids and crowd and noise and there might’ve been more people there than just our families. High chairs, booster seats, bibs, spills, crying, laughing, eating, and thankfulness. Just the way I like it — and have pushed for ever since at my Thanksgiving table.
Always in the back of my young mother’s Thanksgiving-planning mind was Olivia Walton (if you’re reading this and don’t know who that is, my oh my, you need to get up to speed on your back episodes of The Waltons) as she presided over her brood and her table. That was the goal, the ideal. I didn’t quite manage to give birth to seven children or live victoriously through the Depression, but my four were blessings abundant and we had some “tight times” so I figure that makes me a kindred spirit with Mrs. Walton. You think I’m kidding — seriously, this fictional character often popped up in my mind when I pictured the future of my family and great big gatherings. And boy, we had some mighty gatherings. In hindsight I wish I would’ve kept some kind of logbook as to what each Thanksgiving looked like over the years so that my heart could relive each one . . . homemade construction paper turkeys taped to the front window, the debate on whether to dress up or dress down, place cards with Psalms written on each to be read aloud, “waiting for the gravy” (inside joke), turkey in various states of doneness (don’t ask), touring downtown Christmas light debuts in the evening, and in later years, the new very welcome additions of in-laws and grandchildren. And always the last-minute invitees which is my darling husband’s top favorite activity. “There’s always an extra chair.” Thus speaks Olivia.
I have a little cross stitch project that was done way back when decor often included a certain type of cutesy characters and style, but even though it’s dated, now I can call it “vintage” and keep it anyway. It says, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord.” Psalm 92:1 and it sits on a shelf in my office. It reminds me of Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving is my jam — my anticipatory carrot dangling out in front of me on the calendar. It keeps me going through all that ridiculous summer stuff like sunshine and beaches and similar things I’ve heard other people enjoy. Ha. It’s planned for weeks (ok months) in advance. Thanksgiving is my holiday. I plot it out like a three-act play with scene changes and players and props. Sometimes we even have an intermission to work a puzzle or throw a football out back before the final act of pie.
But this year it’s going to be different and strangely I can’t wait. This year it will be quiet.
Joy does not require noise. Gratefulness has never needed an audience. To offer thanks, one needs only to do it and send it on its way without grandeur. Our Thanksgiving dinner play will indeed consist of a few traditional acts but they will be simple, more subtle, more like a watercolor in their presentation. I love watercolors for their blending of hues and mostly transparent tones where none of the colors is on guard or overwhelmed by the other. The above painting is a perfect example. Conversations at our quieter table will be happy, lighthearted, and honoring to the One who provided all our needs at the table in the first place. Laughter will indeed break out and even some hilarity undoubtedly. But comparatively it will seem calm. Quiet. Colored with a different brush. I’m happy to give it a try. This year.