The warm memories of Thanksgiving
By Stephan Drew
Well, the Holiday Season is upon us. I don’t know what memories you recall when you hear the word “Thanksgiving” but, I know I have fond recollections of many happy family gatherings. This is the time of year when things usually start slowing down in my family. We’ve been through all the warmer, active seasons of the year and, with the holidays approaching, it’s time to take stock and reflect upon the events of the past several months.
We have several traditions but, I’m not exactly sure how they started. One of the things we do each fall is stock up on food items – sugar, flour, butter and all the other little things we will need to do most of our baking.
Pecans also play a big part in many holiday dishes but, fortunately, we have pecan trees. We pick, crack and prepare our own, bagging them up and storing them in the freezer. Whenever we want pecans, we just take a bag out, let them thaw up and make the sweet delicacies we love.
However, we don’t limit their use to cakes and pies. Mom usually keeps some roasted pecans around for nibbling while we’re busy preparing the larger dessert items. This time of year, there are always “goodies” on hand to sample. That’s what I really love about the holidays. It’s not just the big meals. It’s those tiny, little things that make the difference in family traditions.
We gather every year in a flurry of excitement, everyone giddy with anticipation over the day’s events. Each of us has our own specialty and, mine is the main course. About 10 years ago, I begged and pleaded that they allow me to cook the turkey. I had never prepared anything so important to a family meal. But, I really wanted to. Finally, after much cajoling and, with Mom over my shoulder supervising the entire process, I was permitted the most crucial task of the day.
As you know, if the turkey doesn’t come out right, the whole meal is, basically, ruined. Well, I didn’t ruin it. It was delicious and everyone asked how I had done it. I put it in a baking bag (a miracle if ever there was one!) and I cooked it “breast-down” until it was almost done. Then, just to brown the skin, I opened the top of the bag, turned it “breast-up”, and cooked it for about 20-25 more minutes. Well, since that day, I have been put in charge of cooking the turkey for our holiday gatherings.
As I’m writing this, I can actually smell the sweet potatoes, the cinnamon, butter and brown sugar. I can taste the moist, tender fowl that we all love so much. I can savor the dark, rich gravy over the rice, the delicious string bean casserole that my sister-in-law makes so well, and I can hear the laughter of everyone gathered around the kitchen.
But, there is one empty seat this year at the head of the table. My father passed away in March and, someone else will do the carving of this Thanksgiving’s bird. In holidays past, we did what we will do again this year – we gather around the table, holding hands to make a family circle. My father would say, “Look around this table. Do you see all the living blessings we have been given by God?” We would recount the wonderful things that had happened in each of our lives over the months and then, after a truly humble and gracious prayer, we would sit down to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
It has always been a joyous, happy time and, this year will be no different. A little sadness, yes. But, we have so many blessings to be thankful for that we would be rather selfish to concentrate on the one spot of heartache that darkened our lives.
Daddy, if you can hear me, we are carrying on just like you would have wanted. We will keep your memory alive forever by following the traditions you and Mom started long ago. She’s still here, guiding us every step of the way, so, I know we will have to do it right.
I thank you, God, for the life and lessons of my father. Daddy, we love and miss you but, you taught us well so, we’ll be okay. We thank you and God for being the best fathers any family could have. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! May your day be filled with joy, laughter, good food, fellowship and many thanks to our Heavenly Father.