By Dawn Reed
Do you have good memories of past Thanksgivings? We certainly do!
When our children were little, we made a monumental decision about Thanksgiving. Instead of continuing our long tradition of celebrating the holiday with my family, we would travel to Alabama to spend it with my mother-in-law. I can still remember the day my husband told me.
He gently spelled out his plan. I was shocked. “What?! Not celebrate with MY family?! How can we have Thanksgiving if we aren’t with MY family?!” I wondered again, “How could we do Thanksgiving without MY family?!” Though I didn’t say any of it out loud, I’m sure my eyes were bulging. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea.
“I know it would be a big sacrifice. Just think about it,” he finished.
I thought about it for a couple of days. OF COURSE, we could go to his mother’s! OF COURSE, we should go! How could I say ‘No’?! This was his sweet mother who gave birth to him! She had lived in Germany for several years, moving the day after his high school graduation. She was now back in the States, rooted in Alabama. He had missed out on so much already! OF COURSE we would go! (Inside I was still shocked.)
And so began our annual trek to the south for Thanksgiving.
It wasn’t so bad-not bad at all. My beloved’s mother was an amazing cook. Her cornbread dressing made our mouths water. Her ham was perfect and ginormous. It was so big it looked like she had just cut the legs off the pig. It barely fit into her oven! She had a magical glaze of pineapple juice, brown sugar and mustard that she generously slathered all over it as it baked. She always made mustard greens, purple-hulled peas, sweet potatoes and a whole lot more. She had pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce that was the best. The smells were magnificent, hinting at the delicious feast that was on its way.
My mother-in-law lived in a tiny single-wide trailer. She and her new husband (my beloved’s step-father) collected arrowheads and other Native American memorabilia. Their home was filled with love and so many other treasures. We laugh now when we remember those Thanksgivings, trying to figure out how there was enough room for all the grown children (including step-sisters, and their husbands) and all the grandchildren.
The kitchen table was covered with a bounty that would have pleased the Pilgrims and Native Americans. After the delicious feast, we cleared the table to play cards. (I always lost.) There was always lots of trash talking. Finally, we squeezed onto the couch, recliners and kitchen chairs to watch football.
The day after Thanksgiving, we totally lost our minds and went to the mall for a little Black Friday shopping. Mamaw always wanted to get her grandchildren some early Christmas presents!
We made the trip to Alabama for Thanksgiving for years and years. Wonderful smells greeted us as we entered her door. My beloved inhaled deeply every time, smiled and always said, “It smells like home.”
Now, after the passing of both my beloved’s precious mother and her dear husband, we celebrate Thanksgiving once again in KY. We have lots of good memories (and pictures) of fun times in the south. Now, my beloved makes the ham, trying to mimic his mother’s magical glaze. I’ve been trying to copy her dressing since the 90’s. (Close but not perfect.)
Often when I’ve cooked over the years, my beloved has opened the front door, inhaled and said, “It smells like my Momma’s house!” These days, he opens the door, breathes in and says, “It smells like home!”
I’m so glad we decided to go south for Thanksgiving! We all wish we had more of those days!
This year, we have lost more loved ones in our family, and you most likely have, too. There will empty places, empty seats and at times we will be sad. But let’s press on. Let’s be thankful for our blessings. Let’s be thankful for the memories we’ve made and plan to make more this Thanksgiving, as well. Let’s laugh and remember the good stuff, be it company, ham or dessert.
And for just a moment, as we get ready to eat, let’s remember the Pilgrims…setting out on such a courageous journey so long ago, risking so much…their faith in God, their courage, their conviction.