Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Flavors of the Feast

Tomorrow, as I make cornbread dressing and cranberry-orange relish for Thanksgiving (my brother is doing the turkey, thank god!), my thoughts will drift to Thanksgivings long past. Voices and images from those times will appear, some randomly, some triggered by a task, an aroma, a taste, some newly escaped from the cobwebs of my brain: the pre-dinner ritual of polishing silver, washing crystal and china, setting the table just so; my grandmother, Hattye, grinding cranberries and oranges with her ancient grinder (man, I wish I had that grinder!), my mother baking and then drying bread for dressing, the chop, chop, chopping of onion and celery, the constant tasting of everything, and the ambrosia.....food for the gods. Each of these memories flavor this year's delectables, are talked about again and again, and with the talking, are passed on to my daughters for future Thanksgiving dinners.

I wonder if we even know how profound the traditions we create as families are. How crucial they are to our children's lives, to their growth, to their sense of belonging. And how devastating it is when there are none to which a child can anchor himself or herself. I can't imagine not being able to draw from the incredibly rich traditions and stories of my family, not having that history to add girth and foundation to my history, having no backdrop for my life.

And yet, there are thousands upon thousands of kids who come to us every year totally unmoored from family, from their history, from anything positive to draw upon. And as their temporary sanctuaries, it is our job to BE that anchor, that history, that positive; to create memories and traditions that will live on in them, that will give them stories they want to tell their children, traditions they want to emulate.

Thanksgiving is a very big tradition at Promise House.....every year.....and this year will be no different. There will be tons of food, fun, and memories-in-the-making; so that on some future day, when one of our teens is fixing his or her family's Thanksgiving dinner, voices and images of a happy, long-past Thanksgiving at Promise House will appear and will flavor their feast.

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