I went home to my family, of course—I’m actually still there, at my parents’ house. I’ll head back to campus on Sunday, not that I have to get back by any particular deadline, but that’s when my ride is traveling. For the past several years I’ve gotten rides to and from my celebrations with Kit and Allen and their families. I always assumed they were going to a Thanksgiving celebration of their own, but I never knew for sure. I had not asked, and they had not volunteered.
As I think I mentioned, in our school community, information flows oddly. It’s one of those things where I would have taken the normal way of doing things for granted, and even when I did encounter an alternative at school, it took me a while to figure out what the difference was. The difference is that in the outer world, people share personal details out of habit, or to be friendly, or simply because they want to share with someone and don’t much care whom. Here, the masters, and even some of the more senior students, do not share personal details—or any other kind of information—casually, but only with a reason or in response to a question. It’s not an absolute rule, more like a tendency or a habit, but it lends the most mundane occasions an aura of mystery, almost as though each of us are ourselves a school with our own entrance exam.
Mundane like what Allen and Kit and their families do for Thanksgiving. This year I finally asked.
Turns out, they go to Allen’s parents’, who live in the same small city as mine. He did not grow up here, but the family moved shortly after his brother died--which is part of how he eventually got to be friends with a member of the early masters’ group and find out about the school. Kit and her husband go too because Kit has no other living immediate family and Kevin’s family live on the other side of the country. They’ve been doing it for years. Simple and undramatic, and yet how personal are those little details? Especially if you already know these people and so can put it all in context?
I was thinking about that before dinner on Thursday—my sister-in-law and I were talking about school. As I’ve said, she knows about it now and has decided she wants her children to be Sprouts. She was asking, and I was telling her, about holiday practices and what people do on Thanksgiving. Of course, I’ve never been on campus for the holiday so I don’t really know, but I understand that most people who don’t have family to go to for whatever reason go home with someone else, like how Kit and her husband go with Allen’s family and Andy goes home with Sadie, Kayla, and Aidan. She liked the idea of people taking care of each other. She is extremely pregnant now and kept having to get up and go deal with my nephew, who is up and running around now and starting to talk. I mean, he’s been saying a few words for months, now, but he’s starting to really use his words to communicate.
Dinner itself—they asked me to say grace. There were no intrusive questions about my studies this time, no inaccurate assumptions I didn’t know how to cope with, just my uncle said that since I am learning to be some kind of priest I should say grace.
I know how to say a Protestant Christian grace, obviously, but I’m not in training to be a Protestant minister. For a minute I don’t know how to do what my uncle asked, since we don’t say grace at school, and it’s not like my studies actually include any form of leading others in prayer. But I thought—what would Charlie do? What would Charlie’s grace be?
“Listen,” I told them. “Listen, but don’t listen to me. Grace is not one man or one woman talking about God or to God, grace is when God speaks and we notice. Take a moment to listen to God speaking through this meal.”
I timed the silence for one whole minute, then said Amen. And we all ate. But we ate more quietly than normal, for a while.