Favorite

A Full Plate 

Thanksgiving and Christmas are like Siamese twins joined at the hip of the dinner table. These two days are either end of a month long journey.

I like Thanksgiving better because the food and visiting has yet to inspire the possible guilt attending the latter part of the trip. The giving of thanks always seems to be something we can do without being afraid of failing.

The list of things we're thankful for reads like the menu of the Thanksgiving meal itself.

First, there's the main dish. We immediately think of turkey, even if we eat ham or tofu instead. The main dish of what I'm thankful for is God -- even though I'm not sure of what I mean when I say that word -- and that's part of what I'm thankful for. So thank you, God, for being a mystery I can never quite comprehend.

Mixed with the turkey is the dressing of family. At first glance, it's bland in appearance. But on closer inspection we discover a multicolored dish of inexplicably connected flavorful crumbs. The best dressing has good sharp onions in it. Like the family the dressing represents, this flavor reminds us it's sometimes the bite of what we love the most that makes it so good.

I'm even thankful for that wiggly red stuff on the dressing. I guess it represents the things we'll be served even if we don't like it. Since it's flopped on the dressing, we start learning about this flavor early on.

My next favorite part of the spread is the cornbread, which is simply a variation of dressing. Cornbread represents my closest friends. They're all connected like family, but just not as mushy, and easier to get ahold of.

Then there's the cream corn, where the individual pieces mix with the cream of themselves. These folks are not quite cornbread, but might become so with a little more time. These are the people I enjoy interacting with on a regular basis.

Next to the corn are the butter beans -- that little stockpile of similar individuals. These are the many people I don't really know at all but who nonetheless figure into my life one at a time.

A big glass of tea is essential. Like the talents the tea represents, this dark, musty liquid sometimes keeps me up at night.

It just wouldn't be Thanksgiving dinner without dessert. This sugar-filled concoction has a kinship to the sweet tea, and represents the people who read this story. While I wouldn't kick about not having it, this last wonderful flavor makes everything perfect. That's why I sometimes sneak in the kitchen and get a bite of dessert before I'm supposed to.

Now -- I'm about to pop. All I need is a little coffee and a short walk. This follow-up ritual helps me digest the list I just made.

After that, I'll wallow in the luxurious slumber of more blessings than I deserve. And about an hour later, I'll go have another plateful.

-- David Clark's work has appeared on NPR's All Things Considered. His column appears in 25 newspapers around the country. Write to him at P.O. Box 148, Cochran, GA. 31014, or via email at dclark@accucomm.net.

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