Oodles of noodles covered the beds, the tables, and every available flat space in the house. This is how our house looked as my mother prepared for the annual church holiday bazaar. After a few days and the noodles were dry she would package them in appropriate quantities, dozens of large bags for the chicken and noodle supper at the bazaar, and scores of small packages for direct sale at the bazaar tables. Hundreds of thousands of noodles prepared my mind to receive “string theory” as the ultimate building block in the construction of the universe; only to me it will always be “noodle theory.”

Those noodles were delicious, and the bazaar always was an outrageous success, leaving the women’s organizations that sponsored it with the problem of what to do with all their money. During the noodle days in later years I had to be careful about inviting ourselves, with our children, to come home for a visit, if it was noodle time. All of those beds, that she made sure were available the rest of the year for our visits, would be full in those days.

A house filled with noodles is one of my images of abundance. I lived with them when I was growing up. I saw them in return visits. I still have pictures of them. The world is chock full of noodles.

Thanksgiving and Christmas together illuminate the exceptional abundance available to us in this world. The tables overflow with enough for everyone, including those who are poor, if we make some effort to allow access to the tables for them and to them.

In all the world there is excess—in its immensity and in the extraordinary patterns in even the smallest things we find. When we make the effort to duplicate them, we see that inherent intricacies far outstrip our creative abilities. Instead we must simplify and summarize, missing most of what exists. There is an elegance in things that speaks to us of profound generosity and attention to details. There is excess that allows us second chances, and third and fourth, and ninth if we are cats, and more if we are people. Whether we examine the microcosm or the macrocosm the universe is excessively generous.

So our making of noodles can go on and on, without approximating the slightest part of divine benevolence. In God’s magnanimity our little repetitions and duplications are honored, even when God makes everything new and unique. We will gladly taste them again, and fill ourselves up with the same thing, even though there is something slightly different every time, as the excellent cook tries to improve upon the best recipe, and as the tiny noodles in all creation align themselves in new and not exactly predictable patterns.