But for the boat of gravy, there wasn’t enough room on the table for the feast. Instead, all seventeen of us had our plates piled high with turkey and ham, gluten-free stuffing and cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes and “adult-friendly” cranberries and string beans that had been boiled to death, southern-style. We hadn’t even put the sweet potato and apple pies in the oven yet, but the plate of brownies and the molasses cookies and the apple-berry cobbler stood ready and waiting, alert to future promises of consumption.
Except for the occasional “Mama? Mama!”, the kids chattered away at another table on the other side of the room, and all was quiet. All was silent, mostly.
We raised our glasses of water and wine (and Grand Daddy his tumbler of milk), and daring not to lose a moment’s perfection, we thanked Jesus for his presence there with us, clinking and nodding and looking across the table at each face. And then as a prayer of thanks, we went around the table, each taking a minute to boast of his or her gratitude.
Eyes wide open, it was the holiest of moments.
Tears were shed, and laughter was had; mmm hmm’s were uttered, because somehow, someway, even if we hadn’t heard the story before, our hearts understood. Our insides got it.
We got what it means to come face-to-face with death, grateful for LIFE on the other side; we got a patriarch’s pride as he looked around the table at two of his sons and his daughter, his wife and the spouses and the new friends gathered near.
“He doesn’t know how lucky he is,” Grand Daddy later said, pointing to his youngest grandson, “Baby” Cancan.
And then, turning to his son and to me, “And they don’t know how lucky they are as well.”
He was talking about us.
Grand Daddy was talking to me.
Had I really forgotten my fortune with the intimacy of the meal dismissed?
Maybe I had, maybe I hadn’t. Maybe eighty years brings about wistful wisdom when all of the sudden we know and we get what’s really important in life. Maybe it’s then that moments of thankfulness are captured not just in the once-a-year, holy platitudes around the table, but in each and every minute of our day.
Maybe then we’ll see the sunlight streaming through the open windows, and even in the thick of December’s bitter cold, we’ll feel its warmth and say, thank you, thank you. Maybe then we’ll stand at the stove with our nieces and watch as turkey drippings and flour and broth magically marry into The Best Gravy Ever; we’ll give each other high-fives and tuck the memory of that moment into our pockets, remembering, relishing. Maybe then we’ll bust into spontaneous dance parties just because, and play Freeze Tag in the freezing backyard, even if we feel like we’re not very good at running up Alabama-sized hills. Because maybe then we’ll realize that it’s in that dancing and that running and that eating and breathing and living that we’re brought to life over and over and over again.
Or maybe that then can actually be now.
Call it luck, call it gratitude, call it thankfulness – call it whatever you want – I want to live with this attitude, with this spirit. I want my insides to giggle delightedly at the little things, grateful for another day even when I’m exhausted and tired, even when I feel like I’m living my own spin cycle of a laundry-filled life.
Instead, might my heart tenderly raise my glass, might my insides not just hear, but listen, and might I realize – truly, truly realize – how lucky I actually am.
Could it be the same for you?
What about you? How do you cultivate luck/gratitude/thankfulness year-round, instead of just one thank-filled day a year? And more importantly, how do YOU like your green beans?