Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks for Good Food, Family and Friends--Linden Malki

The last few days my email has been buzzing with my daughters and daughters-in-law plotting food--who is doing what and bringing what for Thanksgiving--with contributions as well from their cousins and aunts. One cousin asked one of my daughters who plans the menu, and the response: Divine Providence. But while food is major part of a Thanksgiving celebration, I am most thankful for the way this celebration has connected me with people. My earliest memories of Thanksgiving are of the long drives from Spokane to northwestern Oregon, to my grandmother's house, where my dad's family gathered. It was usually dark by the time we got to Portland; sometimes through the Columbia Gorge rainstorms that look like someone is pouring buckets of water on the windshield. Grandma often had a houseful, so we stayed with Dad's sister's family, just down the road. I usually slept in my cousin's room, which had a beautifully mounted frog skeleton on the wall. If we were able to come a few days earlier, I got to help stuff Swedish potato sausage: a long sausage casing with Grandma poking the sausage in one end and another cousin and I pushing it down to the other end; when we got packed in, it was time to pinch it off every inch or so and twist the casing to make a link. This was the chance to hang out with not only Oregon cousins, but some that came up from California. Being the youngest granddaughter meant that I was usually on the dishwashing crew, and if the bigger cousins went hiking after dinner they got stuck taking me along. Even though I don't see those cousins as often, we still value each other as friends as well. The years after my grandmother was gone, Dad. who was the Sunday dinner and holiday cook, would invite folks from our church family that didn't have extended family to our house. After my mom passed away and I was in college, we would spend Thanksgiving with my brother's family in Seattle. There was usually someone from Seattle who had room for a passenger headed north, and one of my most memorable rides was with a friend who was taking two other students to his home because their own homes were too far--one was from Hong Kong, and the other from San Bernardino. We found out that the one knew my cousin who was a missionary in Hong Kong, and the other one was from Calvary Baptist. I met his family when I came here, and we are still in occasional contact. After I was married, Thanksgivings started out at my mother-in-law's, but after a few years, the family parceled out holidays to different sibilings, and Thanksgiving became "ours". I have learned not to overstress; I do a turkey and have faith that everybody else does whatever is necessary to make a great family gathering. My sisters-in-law are great cooks, and we learned to have plenty of containers for sending leftovers home with everyone. One year, I recall two sisters-in-law facing each other in my kitchen with pots in their hands, each saying, "I made grape leaves just the way John likes them!" Each year there were more babies, and children getting bigger, and eventually spouses and grandbabies. The last few years my daughters and their cousins are wrapping the grape leaves and bringing their own specialties. It's gotten more complicated as the families grow, acquire inlaws and shared grandkids, but I've had some great phone visits with sisters-in-law the past few weeks who will be with other branches of their kids' extended families. It is fitting that food, family and friends are the center of our celebration of thanksgiving to God--these are central blessings of the lives that we are given on this earth.

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