Thanksgiving, Grandma Madsen-style
Many years ago, my Grandma Madsen got fired from the Brookings South Dakota jail.
She was the cook for the prisoners.
It wasn’t because she cooked badly.
It was because she cooked too well.
There was a clash of philosophies, you see, philosophies of both cooking and people, that got her in trouble.
Her overseers couldn’t help but notice that eggs were disappearing faster, under Grandma’s kitchen watch, as was the cream and butter.
So when they investigated the sit-u-ation, they learned this: Grandma was audaciously adding one egg per prisoner in their pancakes, and using real butter and real cream when margarine and water or skim milk had been used before.
That isn’t allowed, they told her. They are only prisoners.
And her retort was that prisoners though they may be, they are still children of God, and all children of God deserve an egg a day, and cream and butter.
Staring Thanksgiving Day squarely down, my refrigerator is stocked to the gills with eggs, and cream, and butter.
(So’s my waistline, I’m noticing.)
I know that Thanksgiving isn’t strictly speaking a religious holiday, but I can’t think of it without thinking of the Greek word for it, the word from which we get the word Eucharist, another name for Holy Communion.
Eu means “good,” and charis means “grace.” Put together, these two word parts began to mean “thanksgiving,” or, in the verbal form, “to be thankful.”
Holy Communion, the Eucharist, is a time in the worship service when Christians gather together, and hear the story of God’s presence in history, and God’s promises, and God’s preference for the poor, and the outcast, and the foreigner.
And fed with the story and the bread and the wine, they are sent out to feed.
The Day of Thanksgiving is always a bit awkward for me, I confess. I have so much about which to be thankful.
But I am fully aware that there are others who look upon this holiday and, either because of turns of events in the year last or because of persisting circumstances of trial and assorted yuck, find it a day completely out of synch with their lives.
And so this day is a reminder to me of both of the Great Thanksgiving, the Eucharist, which tells of God’s commitment to the least and last of these, and of my Grandma who lived out this commitment, and got fired for it.
Good Lord, I loved that woman, and I miss her powerfully.
I give thanks, then, on this day, for my Grandmother’s witness, for my God who is not a God who rewards the rich but one who promises hope to the poor, for the family around me, for the feast spread before me, and for the prayer that goes up from me that I am so filled with Eukharistia that I will share my cream and my butter and my eggs with all the children of God, even those who don’t, by some standards, deserve it, all the while knowing that I too, on more than one occasion, am a prisoner hungry for the same good grace that my grandmother gave to those in the jail all those years ago.
Peace and Happy Thanksgiving to you all!