Every year as part of my family’s Thanksgiving tradition, my Aunt Addie would lead us in a ritual of gratitude and remembrance before we were allowed to eat our holiday meal. We would stand in a circle holding hands and take turns calling out the names of our ancestors who have passed on. With each name called she would pour libations which usually entailed spilling a few drops of water onto the soil of a potted plant.
I have been thinking a lot about that idea this week after the sudden death of Pat Duffy, someone I considered part of my “community family.” Pat and his wife Cheryl founded Jammin’ Bread, my favorite eatery (and sometimes office)… and over the last 20 years their little shop has become a haven for so many of us who consider it a space that feeds not only our bodies, but also our minds and souls. It is an oasis…our own little utopia with good food, good friends, and good conversation.
It’s ironic that the woman who created that Thanksgiving family tradition was not actually my aunt but a close family friend that my grandparents had befriended along the way, something I learned much later in life. I guess we never bothered to ask just how she was related to us. We loved her immensely…and she loved us. That’s all that mattered. There is the family you are born into, and there’s the other family…the one you make along the way. Some people believe that “friends are the family we choose,” I believe, “community is the family we create.”
From the multi-colored crepe paper lanterns to the bold abstract painting to the whimsical bathroom doors that were obviously made with equal amounts of creativity and love, the place is distinctively Pat. And although we will no longer see his mischievous grin or the sparkle in his eyes, we will be reminded of his unique character, his kind and loving nature, and his inquisitive and creative mind by everything he created at Jammin’ Bread. His spirit permeates the space.
And this Thanksgiving Day, in honor of Pat Duffy and others in the collective community family made up of people we’ve picked-up along the way, I will stand in the circle and say his name with immense sadness and profound gratitude as we pour a special libation in his memory.