The First Thanksgiving

Matt.: 6:25-33

My wife and I were married in June of l961. She was Irish Catholic, and I, Episcopalian (formerly a Methodist). We both received graduate degrees at Yale and moved to Chicago, where I was pursuing a PhD in Biblical Studies. My wife had graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Cum Laud from an eastern woman’s college. She was then, and is now, far brighter than I. We had gone together for five years and been engaged for three because of the resistance from our families.

In November the phone rang, and my mother announced that she and my father would be flying out to spend Thanksgiving with us (my grandmother lived in Rockford, Ill.) My wife blanched. To entertain my parents would be hard enough in our cinder-block-book-riddened apartment. But to cook for them was unimaginable. (My mother came from a long line of wonderful Swedish cooks.) Ever resourceful, my wife did what any intelligent woman would do. She bought a copy of the New York Times and looked up the recipe for cooking a turkey and for making stuffing. Times in hand, she went to the grocery store, bought a Butter Ball frozen turkey, and returned proudly home.

My parents flew in on Thanksgiving Day and arrived at 5 o’clock. The turkey had been put in the oven at 3. We made small talk from 5 t0 7 and drank tomato juice. (My Methodist parents were teetotallers.) By 8 o’clock, it was evident that the turkey was no where near done. It seems that there had been two oversights. First, we hadn’t thought to check the calibration of the stove in our apartment. Second, my wife had not thought to thaw the turkey before putting it in the oven. At ll o’clock, we sat down to our Thanksgiving dinner, just barely having made it on the appropriate day. The turkey was fine and the stuffing, in a side dish, was unusual. As I washed the dishes after midnight, I tried to mollify my mortified bride. “That stuffing was really different. Was it the black walnuts?” “No!” my wife shot back. “We didn’t have any cooking sherry, so I threw in two cups of bourbon!”

My father snored loudly from our over stuffed chair; my mother slumped, cross-eyed on the couch. The next day they had a limo drive them out to Rockford.

We fondly remember that first Thanksgiving because there was love, tolerance, ingenuity, forgiveness, and grace. My parents came to love my wife deeply and her parents as well. My wife’s parents returned the affection. Years later my Irish Catholic mother-in-law came to my ordination and received communion in my church.

We still have the original recipe for the turkey and the stuffing. Amen.