That’s the phrase that often comes to mind these days. Thanks to Layne.
Layne is my niece, and she is four. Words that come to mind when I think of Layne: big-eyed, curious, sensitive, sweet, exacting, polite, funny, raised eyebrows, headbands, a lisp that’s sadly fading. She used to be into Buzz Lightyear and space. She loves her pink converse. She once called the giant Cinderella doll on her bed “my wife.” She also has an attribute I wish to emulate. Layne is….
Grateful. (Here we are, having a heart to heart before my wedding. I love that little girl.)
Earlier this year when Frans and I were visiting, we were mini-van riding when Layne looked down at a finger with a wound. “Mom! It’s healing!” she said, excited to see a scab forming. Her Mom, driving, took the opportunity to have a teachable moment. “That’s how God made your fingers, honey. He made them to heal. Isn’t that cool that God made our skin like that?”
With no prompting Layne looked awe-filled at her finger and whispered to herself, “Thanks, God.”
So these days, when Frans and I are thankful to God, or we want to have a short prayer before we eat, we bend our head down like Layne and whisper “Thanks, God.” With hearts that are filled with love for a certain little person as well as a God who heals.
Yesterday was a “Thanks, God” kind of day.
First of all, the day was beautiful. These days a sunny, blue skies kind of day, even in the cold, is rare. I’d say we get sun 3 out of 10 days. The other days are gray, dull, rainy, cold. But yesterday I woke to bright sunlight filling our apartment and the trees shaking off the last of their golden leaves.
Thanksgiving Day. I decorated a bit with pumpkins.
And a homeade banner.
It was strange to celebrate in a land that is Thanksgiving-less. I kept wanting to wish everybody I saw a “Happy Thanksgiving,” so I did, in the butcher shop, where I bought my 8 pieces of quality French-grown turkey filets. The butcher had sold 20 turkeys that day, so I wasn’t the only one celebrating.
I then attacked the cooking. I realized that I was one glass dish short. No where to put the stuffing! So I headed out to Het Juttersdok and bought a quality class pan for 2,50 Euros. I washed it well, and filled it with stuffing (after buying the cornmeal and buttermilk to make my own cornbread for the stuffing). I made pumpkin pie bars, sweet potato rolls, sweet potato casserole, sage stuffing, and Mom’s frozen cranberry salad.
Frans came home and cooked the turkey, made mashed potatoes, and gravy. We were excited. Our first Thanksgiving (insert nasally voice we use for sentimental occassions…think of Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day…oh how sweeeeeet.)
I set and decorated the table. I vacuumed the floors. I made a menu. I stressed out. I put on a dress and apron and lit candles so that we were all ready when Frans’s family made their way through the thick file (fee-lah means traffic).
Finally, we were all settled in the living room around our dining room table (that had been moved in there for the occasion). Three of us were sitting on the couch, and Frans prayed.
I introduced each dish like an old friend, “And this is sweet potato casserole. She’s sweet.”
And we dug in.
We ate, we talked, we laughed. We sang “Come Ye Thankful People Come” with Frans on piano (he had practiced earlier that day). We watched a four minute video about the history of Thanksgiving.
People were oohing and ahhing over the combinations of the flavors in my old friends, old friends that tasted like Grandma’s house on a cold day, or for years I had set at around Mom’s beautifully decorated table with Dad’s football game paused in the background.
It was fun.
Best of all, we Skyped in my family, and the van Santens took turns speaking into the computer screen, telling my Mom, Dad, sis-in-law, brother, niece, and friend what they were thankful for.
Harper, my six-year-old niece who I miss to pieces, had decorated for Florida Thanksgiving and showed me her work. Talented girl. This is Harper’s work. It’s of Frans and I when we got engaged. Medium, chalk.
Layne and little brother Maitland were napping.
But after the dishes were washed (Thanks Ma van Santen!) and Frans and I collapsed into bed, we went to bed totally stuffed and with Layne’s words on our lips.
Ps. Things I learned from this Thanksgiving:
- If you want to order a whole turkey, order 3 weeks in advance because the guys have to be shipped from France. Oh yes, and they’re over 60 Euros. Turkey filets you have to order a week in advance and they’re about 25 Euros for 8 pieces.
- Cans of Libby’s Pumpkin can be bought (for 6 Euros!) at the Eichholtz on Leidsestraat. I bought one and saved it for my pumpkin dessert.
- Make cornbread out of cornmeal (maismeel) and buttermilk (karnemelk) for stuffing.
- The Dutch for sage is salie.
- Timing is everything. Like my mom, I made a detailed cooking schedule for the day of.
- Make sure you have enough cookware!
- The lowest shelf in our oven burns things.
- Involve your husband! He was proud to help.
- I like to break out the 1950s fashion on Thanksgiving.
- But most important is number 10. Follow Layne’s lead. Always remember to whisper a “Thanks, God.”