it was thanksgiving and he hadn’t helped

with the bird, the stuffing, the salad,

the potatoes or the setting of the table

because he had been watching football,

and now he said he wanted to go over

to his buddy Bill’s place after dinner

to watch another game, and couldn’t

she just leave the dishes for him when

he got home; no, she said, no she could not

because he needed to be “present”

and not just a “phantom” or a “ghost.”

he did not know what this meant. he believed

being present meant being in the same room,

and that is why they would be broken up

by next thanksgiving, and she would be

with a new man who would not only help

with the bird, but fuck her

on the very dining room table where only

a year ago her old boyfriend had

finally sat down with a beer in his hand,

and asked her to say grace.


This is the most chaotic thing I’ve ever seen in all my tales days

Amanda Palmer Series; Trout Heart - 11″x14″ ink, watercolor and wax resist

This is part of a series inspired by the musician, Amanda Palmer.  I found the music and lyrics haunting, the image of the fish circling and circling and the concept that all life comes from other life.  She honors the fading heartbeat of the fish that would be providing her meal.  I wanted to create a painting that is like a prayer of thanks; a visual “saying of Grace.”

- Patricia Robin Woodruff

Saying Grace

A funny thing happened about a year ago: I started saying grace.

When I was a kid, we said grace before formal meals, but not every night. And we only said grace in an eyes-closed, holding-hands, prayer kind of way when we had holidays with our more religious aunts and uncles.

As I got older saying grace didn’t really even cross my mind. We’d have family over, I’d cook a meal, we’d get it to the table, and then we’d just start eating. Or Dave and I would sit down together after a hectic evening of baby-wrangling and launch into our food, barely glancing at each other.

We had a somewhat stressful Thanksgiving at our house a few years ago.* I was eight months pregnant and took a very long head-clearing constitutional that resulted in Dave being sent out on a search & rescue mission. By the time we sat down for dinner, we sort of forgot to say grace. It suddenly felt sad to me. And I began to feel its absence at all our meals. I wanted a moment of recognition of my effort in cooking and meal planning. But I also missed the moment of recognition that one of us bought the food, bought it with money we had the good fortune of earning, that it was grown by someone and picked by someone, requiring care and work and expertise. If we were eating meat, an animal had died. And then I wanted to acknowledge that we had finished another day and here we were, sitting at a table together, our child asleep, the lights on.

I am not a religious person, but there are a million small blessings involved in a meal and I suddenly very strongly felt a need to acknowledge those blessings in some concrete way.

So we’ve started saying grace before dinner. It’s a secular grace– acknowledging effort or expressing gratefulness rather than thanking God. Now that we’re eating dinner with Bear more often, sometimes grace is capped off by a hearty round of cheers. When it’s the two of us sometimes it’s just a pause, a beat to look at each other and nod. Yes, here we are.

And then we eat.

* The whole faux thanksgiving saga is helpfully captured here.

[Photo: “Neffsville, Pennsylvania. Saying grace before carving the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner in the home of Earle Landis” by Marjory Collins, 1942. From the Library of Congress]