Home is Here
When I climbed the steps to the Congregational Church on Thanksgiving day, I didn’t know what to expect. In all the years I have lived in Laguna, I’ve never gone to the community potluck. Hesitating at the upper landing while carefully balancing my recently cooked pumpkin casserole, I started to see familiar faces–Anne Wood at the door, Sharon McNair hovering over the array of stuffing, potato and vegetable dishes, Colin Henderson, Friendship Shelter founder and leader on aid for the needy, Maya Dunn, advocate for underserved families.
We joined hundreds of people lined up for the bountiful meal, Charlotte and Alex Masarik of Village Laguna, Sandy Dildine of the Bluebelt Coalition, Gayle Waite of the Woman’s Club, a woman from Oceanside who heard about it while riding the bus, a man whose family members are scattered and distant, and many other happy people, too many to talk to. Some may be homeless, some poor, some lonely, some just wanting to share the holiday on a grand scale, all there to enjoy the community spirit and generous feast. The man sitting next to us has been coming to the community Thanksgiving for years. Reminiscing about when it was held in Bluebird Park, he recalled sitting around the park, and on the grass, listening to the musicians. “It was nice, but this is nice too.” And we had the violin tunes of always-contributing Doug Miller.
What fun! There was a Thanksgiving quiz master circulating among the tables, asking questions like “What president signed the proclamation creating Thanksgiving day in 1863?” or “What year did the pilgrims arrive in America?” Prizes were given. Lunch bags with sandwiches for later in the day and playful trinkets kids would enjoy were given to anyone who wanted them. The event was an equalizer. If you could bring something or contribute you did; if not, it was for your enjoyment. All ate the same food and ate at the same welcoming table.
Back at home I hankered for some traditional Thanksgiving food to have around so I made cranberry bread and my favorite cranberry relish. Then branching out, I tried a new pumpkin and cashew curry recipe made from chunks of real pumpkin, a delicious blend of exotic and American.
We called our relatives having dinner in Nevada, Arizona and Sacramento. Then the house was quiet, the cats were snuggly, the weather was gorgeous, and I settled in to four days of South Laguna history research.
For the first time I realized I didn’t have to go anywhere to be home. It is right here. Our parents and childhood homes are gone, but we have our own contented family right here in a community we love.
When we think of the famine, war, and oppression world-wide it seems miraculous that we find ourselves living in such a unique, beautiful and supportive community. Our thankfulness leads to generosity to those who are struggling. Events like the community potluck help us to appreciate the leaders who guide us and the volunteers who, by example, encourage us to be more giving and understanding.
New community and inner dimensions are there to be revealed. We can open up, step out and enjoy our home even more.
Landscape architect Ann Christoph is a former City Council member.