Our Thanksgiving Gift
I woke up one morning realizing that I had become the family
Matriarch. That awesome title suggested setting an example or
perhaps bearing some responsibility. But for what? Does it now
give me the right to criticize someone for using the wrong fork?
May I no longer act irresponsibly? No, it turns out that it means
that the daughter of the Matriarch wants to take on the "doing"
of the holiday feast. The Matriarch, and the Patriarch who
lives with her, are only responsible for bringing the turkey and
The dinner table was beautiful, all of the dishes actually
matched and all of the goblets were the same size. Martha
Stewart had given me, the former hostess, permission to
"mix and match".
As the cousins and in-laws assembled, we realized that there
was an empty chair between the Matriarch and the daughter.
Thinking daughter had made a mistake, no one mentioned it.
It was getting to be a little later than the planned sit-down;
we started, so the food would remain viable. Frannie gave the
blessing and we all agreed that we had many reasons to be
thankful. The door bell rang, and in came a beautiful, classy
Muslim woman. Adah was a student of Claudia's, who teaches
ESL (English as a Second Language) at a nearby university.
Claudia had seated her between us in case there was any
prejudice against her. She needn't have worried; the room was
filled with welcomes.
Adah called Claudia out to the kitchen for a private conference
and when they returned, Frannie was asked to repeat the prayer.
Being a very sensitive person, she did repeat her prayer of
gratitude, but left out the reference to Jesus.
Adah looked on, sometimes with puzzlement, as the same old
family stories were retold, eliciting much laughter. All of a
sudden, I realized that I was sitting next to a woman from
Turkey who was eating a bird known here as the turkey. Of
course, someone pulled out a pocket computer to find out why
the bird was given that name. Adah asked for the recipe, so she
could prepare it for her family in Turkey.
The eating was over and the guests retired to the livingroom,
our hostess to the kitchen, and I started to take dishes to the
dishwasher. Adah asked that the table not be cleared of the now
empty dishes so that she could take pictures of it. All of a
sudden, she asked me to say something and I realized that
she had audio in her camera. Since it didn't seem feasible for
even the shyest of Matriarchs to dive under the table, I
mumbled some inane thing, wondering if someone in a far
country would come across this years from now.
Claudia and Mark's Shitzu, super-friendly puppy, was allowed
in and then we realized that Adah was showing fear. We had
forgotten that dogs are thought of as unclean in the Middle
East. At our urging, Adah at last put out one finger to touch the
dog, she found it so soft and friendly, and acknowledged that it
probably wasn't going to eat her.
Cousin Eve drove Adah home and on the way asked her what
she enjoyed most in her year in Chicago. Adah said, her
evening with us. She had arrived late as she had hesitated to
come at all. She had envisioned a very formal dinner as she
had seen in English films portraying upper-class people in the
late 1800's and early 1900's being very proper. She made our
holiday unusual and very special; she was our gift.