My mother is not a fan of turkey, but often gave in as a sop to my father, and later, to my husband, a turkey devotee if there ever was one. Waldorf salad (with the requisite "Fawlty Towers" jokes) was always served, as was my favorite pistachio salad.

Baked corn, sweet potatoes (with marshmallows, my brother's favorite part), rolls...then in the early '80s, a new addition, a curried rice salad with artichokes and olives. All in all, sort of a mix of classic Midwest with contemporary So Cal thrown in for good measure.

Then there are the non-food traditions: Setting our watches to calculate exactly how long it will take my sister to spill something (answer: not long), my brother and I lingering at the table long after everyone else has finished because we talk more than we eat. (Coming up for a breath, looking around. Where did everybody go?)

I miss it, because it will probably never happen again. My siblings are busy with children and family traditions of their own. My husband and I spend most holidays with his family because they live closer.

So, as this Thanksgiving nears, I give thanks for what I see in my rear-view mirror: Family, abundance, laughter. God bless my family, wherever they are. And pass the gravy, please.

That Time of Year

Hassled time,
hurried time,
crafted of jammed schedules,
marathon cooking sessions,
and shopping trips from hell.

Why do I make this season
harder than it must be?
All You ask of me
is to live and give thanks:
I save all that for one lone day,
and pursue busy-ness,
all the rest.

Stop me.
Remind me of my treasures,
the ones I did not buy in a store.
Crack open my heart
and let true joy pour forth.
More than turkey,
better than gravy,
prayer will be 
my holiday season.

-Lori Strawn


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