Who is at the table?

Not many people can say that their Thanksgiving table actually resembled Norman Rockwell’s iconic depiction of the all-American holiday, but I have to admit, the Thanksgiving table from my childhood was pretty similar to the one in his painting. The people who gathered around the table were all white, heterosexual (as far as we knew),  and part of families formed with a mom and a dad, with mother cooking and father presiding over the carving of the bird. Gender roles were clearly defined and not (openly) questioned.

Thanksgiving 3

Just one generation later and our family has evolved. We look a bit different now. As we anticipate gathering with our children, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, we can look forward to racial diversity, hair dyed in startling hues, tattoos galore, and conversations that touch on topics like gender identity, sexual expression and fluidity, and the roles of men and women.

It is not Rockwell’s America any more and perhaps it never was. Many folks reminisce wistfully about “days gone by” while conveniently forgetting that many people in Rockwell’s era were not welcome at the table. Or at many schools, clubs, or businesses. That festive depiction of Thanksgiving only looks “ideal” if you happen to fit into the narrow roles of acceptance.

Thanksgiving 1

These updated versions of Rockwell’s painting, featuring a gay couple and a multi-ethnic gathering,  makes me wonder – who is at our tables?  Who is in our churches, our organizations, and our schools? Do we only gather with people who look like us and think like us?  And if we do, what are we missing? Can we accept the joy and challenge of widening our welcome?

This year, whether your table is filled with relatives or whether you create a family of your own choosing and design, or whether you celebrate a “Friendsgiving,” I hope you pause to give thanks for the blessings those special people offer to you. Let us also remember those who are not with us this year and give thanks for them, as well.

Wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving.

Celebrating friendship

Today I celebrate friendship. In our transient, temporary world, I have a real treasure – a lifelong friend, someone who has known me forever. Patti’s mother and my mother knew each other during their pregnancies, sixty years ago. They dreamed about their children becoming friends and growing up together.

And that’s what happened.

We rode the school bus together, went to Brownies (our mothers were co-leaders), and walked from school to our church for junior choir rehearsal. We rode bikes, climbed trees, and went trick-or-treating. We celebrated birthdays, went to Girl Scout camp, and spent snow days sledding and building snow forts. Our orthodontist scheduled our appointments so we could carpool; we assured one another that the embarrassment of braces would eventually pay off.

We were thrilled to be in the same fourth grade class with an eccentric, fascinating teacher, an older single woman who encouraged us to read, ask questions, travel, and learn. We survived middle school with stories of teachers that still make us laugh. High school included all the usual teenage drama but finally led to graduation.

By then we were ready to try something new so we went to separate colleges. Another friend realized how much we missed each other, so her birthday present to both of us was a bus ticket from my college in Pennsylvania to Patti’s college in Indiana (thanks, Suzanne). Our first college summer was filled with adventures as we worked as camp counselors at beautiful girls’ camp in Wisconsin.

And in the years since then? We have laughed and cried. We celebrated each other’s weddings. We supported one another through divorce, career changes, parenting, unemployment, and great loss.

While we are not yet “old,” we are wise enough to realize that our friendship is a gift. Despite living in different states, we make a point to see one another at least once a year. We started celebrating milestone birthday years – at 40, we traveled to a friend’s vacation home for a weekend getaway, at 50, we relaxed on a weekend cruise from Miami, and last week, to celebrate our 60th birthday year, we spent three days at the King Arthur Baking School in Vermont, learning how to bake pies and tarts.

Because the years seem to be going by more quickly, we’ve decided that we need to step up our birthday celebration game – we’re already thinking about what to do for our 65th.

Friendships change our lives.

Friends, those still living and those who are now a memory, are a gift.

Let us give thanks for friends.Patti 1

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
(Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10, NIV)