Can you remember the first time you didn’t go home for Thanksgiving? In 1980 or thereabouts, I stayed in Berkeley and celebrated Thanksgiving with Ron and our friends instead of going back East to my parents. There were about 15 of us that first year and we created our own tradition that grew over time. But at that very first Thanksgiving, we filled our plates, sat down to partake, and then, before digging in, we went around the room and each of us gave our own thanks, said our own little piece, serious or humorous as the mood struck. Every year we have done the same. At one point during the years we began to take hands around the table. My children grew up with this tradition.
As the years have flown by, the Thanksgiving crew has changed, grown, shrunk, evolved. It started as a close circle of friends, extended family, that we built for ourselves. Ron and I had our babies who became children (as babies are apt to do), unruly teenagers, and, finally, adults. My parents moved to California and joined us at the Ranch Thanksgivings for 10 years before they packed up and went back East. Mom passed away in 2005. We have lost too many from our close circle over the years; lost to death, distance, life changes that prevent participation. Our dogs used to trot around the table sniffing all the yummy smells, until, with their short dog lives, they left us. When I wrote Memories from Cherry Harvest, I included a Thanksgiving dinner scene in the Rina section in celebration of the wonderful dinners we shared over the years with our family of friends.
So this year, my 21-year-old Sudi decided to spend Thanksgiving with his circle of friends in Oakland, mostly other students from California College of the Arts, where he is now in his senior year. He came home Friday to see his siblings and visit with the family. He told me about all the yummy things that he and his friends cooked for the dinner. And he said that when all the food was cooked and ready to eat, they each filled their plates, and 14 young people at his first Thanksgiving dinner away from home sat in a circle in the living room. He said they had no table, but they sat down in their circle and Sudi told them they had to go around the room and each say something. Give thanks. Blessings. Whatever. At first his friends thought he was kidding but he insisted and they soon realized he meant it. So before beginning their meal, they did it. Sudi says they went around the circle and each person spoke. Some said something humorous, others said something serious. They gave thanks, celebrating friendship, abundance, breaking bread together.
Thus the tradition continues, into the next generation: giving thanks around the table.