i woke in the middle of the night and was playing back memories of thanksgivings from my childhood. there were my seven brothers and sisters and my parents and a few stray friends and family together around a giant table. there was the enormous turkey that had been slow cooked all night, and mashed potatoes, squash, stuffing, corn, beans, gravy, cranberry, pies for dessert and likely more. the morning was spent preparing the meal to be presented when my father would return from deer hunting. no set time so my mother would plan for late afternoon, but if there was snow, it could be evening. regardless, there was always an abundance. which in retrospect is quite ironic as my father’s grandmother, Merance (Mary) Lavly (née, Cointreau), was 100% Abenaki from Quebec. She was a medicine woman and a healer. the family lived at various places in VT, Quebec and NH as her Canadian husband, Jean-Baptiste Lavly, was a lumberjack. (They had 14 kids!) When my father was a young boy, during the height of the eugenics movement in VT, Abenaki’s and other native Americans were severely targeted and consequently, many started identifying as ‘French Canadian’ to avoid the serious issues of racism, discrimination and violence. My father was prohibited from claiming his identity and was clear that this was the way it had to be. You had to pretend you weren’t what you knew you were. so thanksgiving looked a little more like a Rockwell painting than a scene from our real life.

when i was eleven, my father passed. he was in a car accident on a country road in Millinocket, Maine and airlifted to the medical center in Portland where he later died. that year my mother did not prepare thanksgiving dinner. i don’t remember what we ate, but i know for sure there was no giving thanks. in the five months after his death, up to thanksgiving, my mother sat quite comatose. sometimes at the kitchen table and sometimes on the kitchen floor. sometimes she’d speak to us and sometimes she’d nod her head or point. but she wasn’t preparing any feasts. her depression persisted for years.

and in the middle of last night i was thinking about the intersection of these two things, my Abenaki family and my post father’s death depressed mother, how these conjoined in my lived experience and formative self so that we no longer attempted to celebrate something based on a story that wasn’t really our story. (even my mothers grandparents were immigrants to the states from Ireland and Nova Scotia not the traditional pilgrims, though pilgrims none the less.) so it’s no surprise to anyone that my own adult tradition has always been to go to Montreal on the thanksgiving day in the states. Casa de Mateo and Ghandi being the two places that for years filled our bellies and souls the best.

enter covid and now we stay home. we don’t hunt, we don’t eat turkey, so it won’t look like the one everyone is talking about on the radio. what will it look like? as it should; simple and wholesome, a little roast with roasted winter vegetables, warm bread and salty butter, gravy, warm butterscotch pudding made with local organic whole milk, a glass of wine. it’ll look like a shadow of a remembrance of things past. going to invoke my parents humility with all the joy of a meal at Casa de Mateo and the extraordinary flavors of the food at Ghandi’s. going to begin a new book, Braiding Sweetgrass, and see what evolves.

wishing everyone a day of thanks for being what you are and for All That Is. may you be quiet, calm, happy, peaceful, loving and contented.

1 thought on “remembering

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