I gasped at the richness of the table before me. Rose-decorated china edged in gold and ivory lace waited at each place setting, guarded by silver forks. Goblets were surrounded by tiny succulents, solitary pink roses in miniscule bottles, violet hydrangeas and dark-colored pots of ivy. Tea candles flickered up towards Edison light bulbs that dangled down for a view from the high ceiling above. Black-suited servers stood at attention. As we took our seats with the other guests at the wedding reception, drinks were poured and serving dishes of food appeared. A salad of slow-roasted beets, goat cheese, and candied pecans was replaced by grilled rib-eye and black cod. Chocolate cake with caramel buttercream wrapped it all up.
I had never eaten a meal so magnificent in a setting so spectacular, but it didn’t even come close to Thanksgiving at Grandma’s.
As a child, I spent many Thanksgivings on that farm. Grandma and Grandpa lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, in a town of a few hundred, at the end of a gravel road that climbed a large hill blanketed in woods. The best Thanksgivings included snow. Stuffed into snowsuits and bright orange stocking caps (it was hunting season after all, and we had to be seen), we would careen down the hill on ancient runner sleds, steering around curves and trying to avoid the towering snowbanks that flanked us. There were only two things that could compel us to come inside: frozen toes and dinner.
Dinner was at a long farmhouse table that sat over a cellar trapdoor in a kitchen still heated by a wood stove. The pantry behind the stove was part of the original log cabin built by my great-great-grandfather when he arrived as a young Swede in this country at the turn of the century. My grandpa had been a boy in that kitchen, and it still put out a marvelous meal.
There were too many of us grandchildren to fit around the table. Extra stools were gathered, jars of pickles opened, good dishes set out, and we were ready to eat. But first came a humbling and quieting of our hearts and tongues before the Lord who had so richly blessed us. Grandpa opened in a long prayer full of love and gratitude. His voice rose and fell gently, much like the fields that rolled up to his house, the Swedish tongue of his childhood emerging in his prayer.
“Ve dank de, Lord, for dis food, for dis family, for dy goodness to us.”
With his gentle “Amen,” Fiestaware dishes of potatoes, carrots, peas, beans and corn—all harvested from Grandma’s garden—were passed from hand to hand. Hot rolls, pitchers of cream from the morning’s milking, stuffing and Jell-O salads were squeezed onto the table around the turkey. Dessert was pumpkin pie, of course, washed down by coffee.
Everywhere there was warmth. At this table, book-ended by grandparents who loved and lived for God’s glory, we were truly blessed. It was where I came away full every time.
A table where God is celebrated is a truly rich table.