Before we can have Christmas we have to travel through Advent (which is all about the anticipation, the waiting, the not knowing, the hoping) and before we can enter Advent, we have to wrap up the previous year by celebrating Christ the King (or Stir-Up) Sunday (if you follow the liturgical calendar, which perhaps you don't, but still the feast exist) and before any of that, we in America, have Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving to me feels like that meal before The Event. The meal that finds everyone back home to celebrate a birth or a death or a marriage, but before the occasion they have arrived for. It's the occasion before the occasion. The meal you will all remember most fondly. The one you linger over - because there are no gifts, no ceremony, no party to get to. There is no reason to rush, and therefor there is no anxiety or fussing or worrying. That has all been set aside until it is inevitable. For the moment, the food, the wine, the being together is all there is. And it is more than enough. And it is also why grown-ups love it so much more than the kids.
The grownups are all too aware of what is coming - of the stress, and the penny stretching, and the humbugging and the squabbling and the pressure to keep up that comes under the guise of The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. And so they savor Thanksgiving and it's simplicity. A meal. Some drink. A few words of gratefulness; The communion of broken bread and spilled laughter.
I love Thanksgiving in the same way that I love those last few hours before we leave for a long road trip. I love the calm before the crazy. Which doesn't mean I don't also love the crazy. Because I do. But there is something about the stillness that comes in the act of those final preparations that seems almost sacred. The final prayers as you pack the final bag. The act of mentally checking your to-do list as you load the blankets and pillows in the car before daybreak. The carrying of warm little bodies from bed to car, knowing that they will wake up to a new world right outside their window, oblivious to all the effort it take to get them there.
And of course the great tension is that you cannot have one without the other. You cannot have the journey- the adventure- without the preparation without the pre-crazy calm. And you cannot have the calm if you never pack for the adventure. The same is true of Thanksgiving and Christmastide I think.
This is our our chance to have the calm-before-the-crazy.
I made pom-pom flowers this weekend for my "Thanksgiving" mantle. I used yarn I already had, pom pom makers and some sticks from the yard.
Round and round and round, I wound the yarn around the form. I mixed colors and textures. Yellows, whites, taupes together. Reds, pinks, wool and cottons, all together.
Once I had enough, I would close each side and then begin to cut. Releasing the yarn from its bound state.
Following the directions I tied one strand round the center and cinched until the yarn popped and poufed. I finished it off by tying each fluffy pom to it's own "stem" - broken branches found in the yard, mixed among the fallen oak leaves of yellow and gold.
It is a fairly plain mantle. There are no gourds, no horn of plenty, no Turkey with it's flashy feathers. There are my simple flowers, some everyday candles, a paper "hymns of thanksgiving" garland strung along with some leftover trim and a larger broken branch I found to be lovely, and driftwood-esque.
It might not be a traditional sort of Thanksgiving decoration, but it works for me.
Looking at it I am reminded to be grateful for the calm, wherever I find it, and to sing songs of thanksgiving for all the blessings in my life- no matter how simple, or plain or everyday or broken or leftover they may seem.