I stared around the table at my family, busy with their groaning plates (usually it's the table that groans, but we've already had the table, and anyway, plates were not meant to carry this weight of turkey and stuffing) while the candles flickered, sharing their soft beams with the corners of the room. Imo was laughing at a joke she had made that none of us had caught, Thea was saying Oh My God did you see something or other, Ed, eyes like headlights, was trying to juggle a small piece of hot roast inside his mouth. Sam raised his glass and in a loud carrying voice called, God bless us ... and paused, and I realized that he had no appropriate Thanksgiving toast. Where are Hollywood and Madison Avenue when you need them?
It's even more tricky, being Canadian. Americans do Thanksgiving better than we do, taking four days and showing a hundred football games, and remembering Miles Standish and Pocahontas, and eating pelicans and coloured corn and planting trees and welcoming snowbirds and raising and lowering the flag and all those other things they do so well. But even they don't have a toast, do they?
Our Thanksgiving takes place in the middle of First Nations' Summer (I can't see that name catching on. Late Surprising Summer might work. Or we could call it, Unseasonably Warm For October: UWFO for short) and is a special time of year for me personally. Not because of my native heritage or because I love pumpkin pie. Not even because of the gathered family, though it is nice to see them together around the table, yelling. (In fact I got kind of misty last night, helped perhaps by an UWFO cocktail or two.) Thanksgiving marked my entry, at the age of nine, into organized religion. I was brought up a strict atheist, so the inside of a church, with its smell of dust and wood and incense, was exotic and faintly naughty. It was a Wednesday in UWFO, many years ago, and my friend Tom led me past the altar and down the winding steps to the choir room. We sang hymns of thanksgiving for an hour -- and then the choir master gave me a dollar and said there'd be more after service on Sunday. And I realized what I had been missing, staying at home to watch cartoons. I had been missing easy money. I was an Anglican choirboy for a couple of years -- yes, with that red cassock and white surplice and silly ruffle, thank Someone there are no pictures -- and, though I never really caught on to the theology, I cherish fond memories of harvest time. Come, ye thankful people come, raise the song of harvest home ... A bit long for a toast, but if I had been sober, last night, I might have lifted my glass.