Thanksgiving week began with a journey led by Sarah Vowell when she appeared as part of The Denver Post's Pen and Podium series. During her reading, she discussed some of her perspective on Thanksgiving by way of its early origins. Oftentimes, huge Thanksgiving feasts commemorated a major battle and lots of bloodshed. In 1777, a national celebration of the holiday occurred to mark the American victory over the British in Saratoga. War again inspired a celebration following Gettysburg when Lincoln declared a national day of Thanksgiving. And so, with notions of Thanksgiving following major war and bloodshed, I headed off to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, not knowing what to expect.
I admit I went with my stereotypes about Ar-kansas, imagining haunting banjos, empty spaces where teeth once hit the gums, religious fundamentalism, homophobia, overalls, and a sense of feeling far far away from home. But, when we hit the cousin Jean's place and settled in for three days, it was clear that not only was there no war to celebrate, but most of the preconceived notions were just a northerner's sense of hysteria, influenced clearly by an overdose of film filters.
Every time Nan and I entered the house that held forty for a fabulous Thanksgiving Day feast, we were formally announced: "The Cousins are here." No overalls filled the room, no country twang, but rather lots of people giving hugs, welcoming us as long lost family. People bustled together in the kitchen creating the feast, chopping, chatting, and stealing bites of freshly fried turkey skin. At tables people gathered, barely talking between bites of plates filled with an abundance of the season, reconnecting with family they haven't seen since the last celebration. Nan and I were simply the cousins, part of the family gathered to feast and give thanks for the warmth of family.
The following day, when we wandered through the historic tour of Eureka Springs, we got to visit Thorncrown Chapel, built by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. Seeing the blend of the landscape and the use of natural light, brought a natural symmetry to Thanksgiving weekend since a year ago Nan and I found ourselves at Taliesen, learning the traits that defined Wright's architecture. And after three days in Arkansas, I got to know a new family, a family that welcomes everyone, a family that laughs, a family that teases, and a family that gives great hugs.
I give thanks to my new cousins.