I remember my little Scottish grandmother not only on Thanksgiving (yes, both the Canadian and American Thanksgivings!), but on any holiday on which serving a "major meal" is involved.
My grandmother was a good, plain cook. And by that I mean that she cooked an abundance of family fare, and she did it with excellence. She could feed the entire brood of us-- and there are many, in our clan of "oatmeal savages". We would all eat hearty, in abundance, and push back from her table feeling satisfied, warmed-through, and most of all, loved.
When she was well into her eighties, she continued to cook turkey dinners whenever a few family members could be gathered together, even when her diminutive size and aching back made it difficult for her to hoist "The Bird" in and out of the oven. Indeed, on my last visit to her in her own home, she staunchly refused to allow me to assist her in any way with the meal. And, because she was Grandma-with-a-capital-G, I obeyed. I stood back, even as I saw her clearly struggling with that enormous, black roasting pan. And in watching her, I came to realize that the ritual was just as important to her as the people who gathered together to eat.
As we settled around her table, set with wedding china and the "Coronation" pattern silverware I can still feel in the palms of my hands... we would all bow our heads, and she would softly begin to recite the Selkirk Grace... her Grace, in the lilting brogue of her father's:
"Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit."
The family would not stir, much less lift a fork, until Grandma had looked up. She would smile at us, and inquire:
"Who's like us?"
To which we would respond with a resounding:
And then, we would enthusiastically tuck in, and feast till our skins felt tight.
Family dinners are not the same without her, but her memory lives on in her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It is my own mother who recites the Grace, now, in a very different dining room, in a different part of the world. At this past Thanksgiving, she quietly asked me if I had learned the verse by heart, so that one day I would be able to "serve the family", as the eldest female member of my generation.
I have. And I will. I know in my heart the importance of family... of "passing down" the traditions, the memories, and most importantly, the love.
I am so thankful for all of it.
Wishing you all health, happiness, and love in abundance
on this day, and every day.