Each November, my husband and I take to the back roads of South Carolina, skimming over the flat farming lands into the low hills of Georgia to spend Thanksgiving with my brother and his family. My niece and nephews, three grands under six, two dogs, and six adults all hover in a small kitchen to birth the bird and trimmings and then dine on the back porch surrounded by reddening maples.
A harvest festival. Four women who survived their first winter in the New World cooked the feast in 1621, joined by 90 Wampanoag and 50 colonists. It would have been a bittersweet moment, I imagine, having lost that year another 50 who had made a hopeful crossing on the Mayflower. Abraham Lincoln made the feast official smack in the middle of the Civil War heartbreak. Thanksgiving seems to grow stronger in difficult times.
And it is true that heartbreak is often healed at table with friends and family and food, when all can stop for a sweet swift moment and lift a glass of memory or join hands in hope. My brother and I began this ritual four years ago after both parents had crossed the boundary waters and so the center of gravity shifted to a different place of gathering but something stronger yet emerged, which is a fullness and gratitude for all that has gone before and joy in those tiny new lives cavorting at our feet.
How we host these moments of solidarity, even when families are broken and losses are counted and someone is surely crazy as a loon, how we hold the place for gratitude is an important one, I think. The table, as I see it, should not be set for a meal but for a true meeting of hearts. It isn't about perfection but about love, and whenever possible, laughter.
So, we asked the Zenu artisans in Colombia who make our wildly popular Mantra cuffs, to make napkin rings for your table. Thanks. Joy. Blessing. Love. Family. Gratitude. Friends. Peace. Eight words to bring to the table. And in the same spirit, we made a set for those who prefer to say thanks in the form of a toast: words of cheer and welcome in 8 languages . . . Sante (French), Salamati (Persian), Karibu (Swahili), Salud (Spanish), Bon Appetite (another chance at French), Bajabule, (Zulu), Prost (German), and Cheers.
As if that wasn't enough, we've asked artisans In Peru to make stunning horn napkin rings for your table. And women in Ethiopia have created a lovely linen napkin - blush or indigo to set off the rings. And amazing placemats from Madagascar made from silk cocoons - such delicious colors and texture!!
As I prepare to head for my brother's house this year, as well as into the homes of other dear friends, I am packing these tiny treasures to give to those who host me, and to raise a glass to them at table and say, with memory and hope in every word, my deep, abiding thanks.
All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker