As Thanksgiving comes around once more, I find myself thinking back to those times when folks really did gather around a table and enjoy a meal as a family.
But, mostly, I keep thinking about my paternal grandmother, who cooked all those meals, and the prayer she said before we began eating.
We sat around my grandparent’s formal dining room table for all those Sunday dinners in the house on Simerly Creek Road that Amy and I would eventually live in for the first five years of our marriage.
We announced our engagement to our friends around that same dining room table, and we had our first Thanksgiving meal as husband and wife at the table in 1995.
Far beyond those days, though, were the days of my youth, as a boy and a teenager. By the time I was an adult, though, the days of my grandmother’s Sunday meals were no more. Alzheimer’s disease had taken her too far away for her to continue cooking, and, eventually, she wasn’t with us anymore.
Her hugs and kisses, her Sunday meals and mealtime prayer were gone.
Oh, my, I remember those meals so distinctly – a full table of meats and vegetables. Every Sunday must have been like Thanksgiving. The vegetables she canned were part of the smorgasbord on the table. Even the things I never ate – the pickled beets, corn and beans – I remember. Corn, green beans, potatoes and slaw were placed in individual bowls with wide-colored rims. The table settings were plates from her china cabinet, tall glasses with tiny stars and silverware from the box atop the buffet.
My grandfather was at the head of the table and always seemed to be buttering bread before any of the rest of us were even around the table. My brother and I sat side by side next to the big windows that looked out into the yard and into the garden where so much of the food we enjoyed was grown and harvested. My mother sat to my left at the end of the table. Across the table from me was my grandmother, and my father, her son, sat next to him.
When the table was set and she’d called us to eat with a “young’uns, let’s eat,” she would bow her head and ask a short blessing. It was almost always the same prayer, sort of a recitation, if you will.
As the last few days have passed, I’ve tried and tried to remember her exact words, but I cannot hear them clearly. I see her, and I hear her voice but not all the words.
What I do remember is this part: “Bless this food for the nourishment of our bodies.”
It saddens me that I can’t remember all of Verna Stevens’ prayer, but when I think of my grandmother, it’s always nourishment for my soul.