The year was 1971. Thanksgiving was different from any I remembered. Yes, my two brothers, their wives, my husband and I gathered with my mom at the big round dining room table. The food was the same—turkey, dressing, green beans, sweet potatoes, Jell-O salad instead of cranberries, pumpkin and pecan pie plus the best homemade yeast rolls.
We prayed our gratitude. My eyes filled with tears. Without exception, I choked down every bite of food that Thanksgiving day—the first after my father died.
Thanksgiving was my Dad’s holiday. Christmas was too commercial for him. He always remarked, “It is most important for you three kids to be thankful for what you have.”
Little did we know growing up on the dairy farm in Gentry County, Missouri, how little we really had. Summer gardens provided jars of home canned green beans, beets, tomatoes, and anything else my Mother could put into jars and pressure cook. We got a black and white TV the summer I was sixteen; yes, our family was the last in the neighborhood. We were told our grades would suffer if we had television, but as an adult, I realize money was the factor.
Love, strong discipline, high expectations were the goals for our lives—we three had no idea we were missing anything. Yes, you could always count on fewer chores, lots of food and more hugs on Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving night was always fun. Many years in northwest Missouri, the first snowflakes fell. It was an exciting time to stare out the dining room window. I hoped for six inches of white; most of the time there was only a trace.
I wish I could take away some of their pain; all the while knowing we each have to move through the holiday grieving in our own way.
The big noon Thanksgiving dinner was over; grandparents had gone home. More and, maybe even better fun occurred when my uncle, aunt, and cousins would come to eat leftovers. My cousins really were my first real friends; all the country neighbors’ children were grown by the time I was ten years old. We would play and play and play, then complain when they had to go home– sorry that Thanksgiving was over.
This Thanksgiving I’m caring especially for some of those cousins’ families. It will be the first Thanksgiving for two of my cousins’ families without them. Both died within weeks of each other this summer. One’s son indicates often on Facebook how much he misses talking with his Dad and recalls expressions of wisdom. The other cousin’s two children, I can tell by their posts, are ‘putting one foot in front of the other and keeping on walking.’ Veteran’s Day posts showed their healthy, helicopter pilot Dad long before Agent Orange took a toll on his life.
I’ve been wondering if these families are going to ‘choke’ Thanksgiving dinner down. I wish I could take away some of their pain; all the while knowing we each have to move through the holiday grieving in our own way.
Perhaps my cousins’ families will be able to claim ‘Be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants for you in your life with . . . Jesus.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:18 CEV
Yes, it’s been a long time since 1971; life changes, even when a generation later, make some Thanksgivings very different.
– By Zeta Davidson. Zeta lives in the Kansas City metro.