It is a brown and white November day, with patches of snow scattered over a brown landscape. It is bitter cold; the warm sunshiny days have retreated into the past. With regret, I discard the last bouquet of summer roses and replace them with a sprig of hemlock with their miniature pine cones.
As the weather changes, Thanksgiving approaches, and minds naturally stray to past holidays and the memories they invoke. Echoes of yesterday—years that run together, break into bright blossoms of memory, and then blend into the smooth-flowing river of the past. I am transported to the old house again . . . the oldest of seven kids filling the house to the brim . . . underfoot; fussing some among ourselves, eagerly awaiting the festive meal . . .
The homey smell of onion-sage dressing makes our mouths water and we can hardly wait until the chickens are roasted to a turn and brought to the table brown and tender . . . the rows of butterscotch, coconut and cherry pies lined up on the shelves in the “junk room” . . . where Mom kept her jars of home canned food stored behind a curtain . . . Daddy concentrating deeply as he built one of his special salads . . .
Other memories . . . sharp, cutting edges that twist and hurt . . . a nursing home and Daddy; face twisted with pain and paralysis . . . being fed turkey and dressing on Thanksgiving Day . . . restaurants closed and our holiday dinner purchased from a 7-Eleven store . . . choked down through our tears . . .
Earlier memories . . . Mom, tired but triumphant . . . face flushed from the heat of the oven . . . proudly bearing the pans of yeasty, homemade rolls, brown and crusty to the table . . . The cranberry sauce made from fresh cranberries, tart and tangy . . . ten heads, including Grandpa, bowed over the meal that was crowded on the oilcloth-covered table . . . the young’ens crammed tight together on the homemade wooden bench behind the table . . . Daddy intoning a heartfelt prayer as he asked God’s blessings on the food and on us . . . the taste of food on my tongue . . .
But it wasn’t just the food that I remember . . . but that warm, secure feeling of “home” . . . we knew we were loved and wanted . . . in that old, leaky, drafty Jenny Lind house that never saw a drop of paint . . . full of love and tenderness . . . we were taught of God’s great love that envelopes and guides us…
That love was the last thing that I felt from Daddy . . . after his last words were spoken to me, telling me that he loved me (I love you, too, Alyce Faye) . . . I never heard him speak again . . . after his speech had gone, his eyes, full of innocent love, followed us around the room . . . the stroke had affected his mind, and ravaged his body . . . yet love was tangible . . . it was the last thing I felt from him . . .love.
As our grandchildren and great-grandchildren crowd around the festive table I wonder . . . do they feel this love of family as we did . . . do they feel secure in the knowledge that they are truly loved and wanted . . . and cherished? I hope that memories of home and family gatherings will always be a bright beacon in their minds . . . a beacon to lead them home again . . . no matter how far afield they roam . . . and keep the family love and unity.
Thank God for the real blessings . . . the love that God has for us . . . the love we have for Him . . . the love of family and home . . . the love for one another . . . these are the things that last.
The following poem was sent to us by Wavie Chappell, and echoes my sentiments exactly.
By Edgar A. Guest
It may be I am getting old and like too much to dwell
Upon the days of bygone years, the days I loved so well;
But thinking of them now I wish somehow that I could know
A simple old Thanksgiving Day, like those of long ago,
When all the family gathered round a table richly spread,
With little Jamie at the foot and Grandpa at the head,
The youngest of us all to greet the oldest with a smile,
With Mother running in and out and laughing all the while.
It may be I’m old-fashioned, but it seems to me today
We’re much too bent on having fun to take the time to pray;
Each little family grows up with fashions of its own;
It lives within a world itself and wants to be alone.
It has its special pleasures, its circle, too, of friends;
There are no get-together days; each one his journey wends,
Pursuing what he likes the best in his particular way.
Letting the others do the same upon Thanksgiving Day.
I like the olden way the best, when relatives were glad
To meet the way they used to do when I was but a lad;
The old home was a rendezvous for all our kith and kin.
And whether living far or near they all came trooping in
With shouts of “Hello, Daddy!” as they fairly swarmed the place
And made a rush for Mother, who would stop to wipe her face
Upon her gingham apron before she kissed them all,
Hugging them proudly to her breast, the grownups and the small.
Then laughter rang throughout the home, and Oh! the jokes they told;
From Boston, Frank brought new ones, but Father sprang the old;
All afternoon we chatted, telling what we hoped to do,
The struggles we were making and the hardships we’d gone through;
We gathered round the fireside. How fast the hours would fly—
It seemed before we’d settled down ’twas time to say good-bye.
Those were the glad Thanksgivings, the old-time families knew
When relatives could still be friends and every heart was true.
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