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First Thanksgivings

November 15, 2018

The very first Thanksgiving I spent away from my family, I was living in Kurt Cobain’s home-town of Aberdeen, Washington. It was not a promising place to live. My boyfriend and I were there for reasons that had everything to do with young love and wanderlust and nothing whatsoever to do with reason.

 

We were broke. That’s putting it mildly.

 

I was selling menswear at Lamont's Department store during the Christmas shopping season and my boyfriend was moving furniture for Selmer Schlacht, who owned the only furniture store in town--a store that is still there. Selmer, in a fit of generosity, had given us a turkey for Thanksgiving. And since the rest of your typical Thanksgiving spread consists of root vegetables and cranberries, I figured I could afford to fix us a feast.

 

And I did: candied yams and mashed potatoes and chestnut dressing and cranberry sauce and rutabaga puff and creamed onions and home-made bread and pumpkin and pecan pies. Remember, there were just the two of us.

 

And we didn’t have a table. Normally we ate off the reinforced cardboard trunk that I’d used throughout my four years of college. We’d sit on the floor, light some candles and eat dinner. Very romantic, of course.

 

But I’d made a feast. A feast required the formality of a table and chairs and we had neither. Nevertheless, undeterred, we put on our best Salvation Army duds—for him, a purple and red bowling shirt, for me an embroidered schmata that I thought made me look like a young Joni Mitchell.

 

And then, for a banqueting table, we unscrewed the hinges and took down the door to the bedroom. We laid one end on the trunk and the other end on the only chair we had. I piled all the festive trimmings of the feast on the door, taking care not to spill too much. And we tucked in.

 

It was a memorable Thanksgiving. If we missed our families—his in Denver, mine in New York—we didn’t talk about it. We were young adventurers, as grateful as the fabled Pilgrims on their first feast and it all seemed like such rightness to be feasting on our bedroom door.

 

Needless to say, we talked about that feast for years. And one year, we talked about doing it again. Only by then we were married. We were living near family and how could we explain that I was going to serve our dinner on a door? Besides, we also had a child. And a high chair. Somehow, taking down the door seemed superfluous. And maybe just a little stupid.

         

On the other hand, wouldn’t it have made a great tradition?

 

Because some things, even when only done once, are worth remembering over and over again, with the same purposefulness of an annual ritual.

 

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I'm a writer, yoga teacher, Lutheran pastor, and music nerd living in New York. I find a feast in daily living - most days, anyway - and write about it here. 

Finalist for the 2017 Chautauqua Prize!
The frank and funny story of a church-geek girl who spent twenty years in the ecclesiastical trenches as a Lutheran pastor, preaching weekly words of hope she wasn’t sure she even believed.