Family dinners are I find unfailingly singular. This I attribute in particular to the extraordinary absence of social reserve which normally attends and so often dilutes foregathering with less intimate people. While our congregation this evening with my sister and her husband at their place in Ottawa South along the Rideau Canal was unusually small (there were just the four of us at table) we were astonished to learn upon leaving that we had lingered there for a full four hours. Throughout the entire time we had jousted with one another to unfold the latest news and stories of reminiscence. Our only notable interruption was our attempted telephone call to my niece and her husband in Beverly Hills, CA and their subsequent return call to us.
Each of us at table was an undisputed orphan. We were thus the latest generation to survive and to continue the familial tradition of Thanksgiving dinner. It is a convention to which I willingly submit. It affords an opening in our otherwise disjointed lives to pull together with affection and endearment. Having said so, the evening was by no means contaminated by sweet nothings. There were the inevitable poisonous utterances that from time to time irresponsibly escaped the lips of one or another, no doubt miscalculated humour stained by unintended criticism. Such is the insinuation of heritage and ancestry that randomly percolates to the surface, the sometimes discomforting but always notable veins of familial reality.
As so often occurs in these harvest events, I arrived with the firmest resolve to avoid the embarrassment of not only going up to the trough but also getting into it. It proved to be once again a false assertion, a routinely perilous resolution. I failed the aspiration miserably. The opening gambit of one fulsome plate of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, green peas, squash and stuffing quickly turned into a second of the same. Afterwards not only did I have two pieces of carrot cake; I couldn’t resist the temptation of the butterscotch pie. Mine is a shameful catalogue to be sure!
In the interest of moderation and the future survival of the Thanksgiving ritual I feel compelled to observe that the saving feature of the entire meal was the omission of the customary hors d’oeuvres. Had we for example tucked into the pâte and cheese at the outset we would have succeeded not only to enlarge our girth unnecessarily; but more importantly we would have defeated the adage that the best sauce for any meal is an appetite. Unquestionably putting on the bib at table ensured a heartfelt devotion which might otherwise have been diminished.