Thanksgiving flashbacks

Checking back in after being gone for almost a year…

Last night, our congregation hosted the area’s Interfaith Thanksgiving. We’ve apparently been hosting this for 19 years, but it was my first time attending. A lot of fluffy feelings going on last night – it was very PC. My favorite parts may have been the meditation and the pagan drum chant (….and that’s why I’m a UU).

Following the service, we had nibbles in the Social Hall, and then I helped out with clean up. During the clean up, I felt this weird sense of deja vu, and I realized that this was taking me back to my childhood when I would do the same thing at my parent’s church. It was a small church, no more than 80 members, and most of the time, when I think of it, I think of the vicious backstabbing, the nasty politics and the hypocrisy – I was the pastor’s kid, so I got a first row seat to all of the pleasantness – well, okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but it looms large in my memory. But every once in a while, there were moments when the community would come together and collaborate in the best way. Some of my favorite memories are of preparations for festivals and weddings. In old school Russian style, the women would prepare giant vats of food in the kitchen, while the men set up tables and the space (yeah, talk about enforcing traditional gender roles). I remember helping out in the kitchen, shredding carrot after carrot after carrot or peeling a huge mountain of potatoes, while another 10-15 women chopped veggies, braised beef, mashed potatoes, and created a feast for 150 people. And accompanying all this tireless work was the talk that makes any community: about who is doing what, the shaming and the praising of various individuals, the passing on of tips these women had learned from their foremothers, and all the other chatter that you’ll find in a close-knit, small community where everyone knows everyone’s business. I think that was what really kept me there hard at work. I learned some fascinating stories, and as long as I stayed quietly at work in the corner, they would forget about me and speak honestly. My sisters didn’t understand why I was happy to help out in the kitchen at these events, but I loved partaking in this communal conversation.

So while I was cleaning up yesterday after the Interfaith Thanksgiving, this is what I was flashing back to. And it was quite different at the UU (no huge vats of food to cook, for one), but there were enough similarities.

It’s funny, how we work so hard to get away from certain things, and yet, sometimes, we cycle back to where we start from. I’m happy and surprised that I was able to dig up this memory for the first time in years and that I am able to bring a little peace to myself when thinking about that church.

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