Growing up in Ohio, Thanksgiving was a very special day. Mom cooked all day and each of us helped out in one way or another. My sister eventually learned to make the mashed potatoes. My brother would peel the vegetables. I was fascinated with Mom's industrial strength grinder. She would use it to grind up onions for the dressing or carrots for a salad. The inherent danger of losing a finger in the grinder drew me like a bee to lemonade. I still have all my digits.
My father would generally lay around and relax during the preparation. He was available for us kids as we hopped in and out of the living room. He was usually smoking and laughing and occasionally tossing me up in the air just to hear me laugh or scream. (In my defense, he did drop me once.) A a factory worker, Dad relished the rare day off and the joy of celebrating with family.
The Big Reveal
When everyone's appetite was raging and it seemed like we had waited forever, Mom would call us to the table. The big kitchen of our century-old house was also home to the dining table. All the goodies would be spread out with the massive turkey having the place of honor. My eyes would become as large as softballs looking at the abundance. There was always plenty of mashed potatoes, broccoli with cheese sauce, turkey and Mom's delicious dressing, carrots or some other vegetable and corn. Multiple pies (pumpkin, pecan and chocolate meringue) sat over on the counter, just waiting for us to finish the main meal.
It is hard to express how thankful we all were that God blessed us with so much good food and the safety of our home. Since my father was estranged from God during those years, Mom would usually say the blessing. Her words were so sweet that God's love and mercy dripped from them. Dad's face lit up to look over the family that surrounded our table. Yes, I would peek to see if he was praying.
Eventually, an uninvited guest became more and more of a nuisance at Thanksgiving and other holidays. My father's smoking led to severe lung illness and other complications. At his last Thanksgiving, he was not feeling well enough to sit at the table. I couldn't bear thinking of him in his room alone, so I took my plate into his room - intending to eat with him. The moment I saw him lying there, I started crying. He protested and insisted that he didn't want to spoil Thanksgiving. Throwing myself on the bed beside him, I wept a long time and he tried to comfort me. Eventually, I sat on the side of the bed and ate my food.
Years later, it is easy to feel sad around Thanksgiving because of all that has been lost. The grandeur of those holidays is partly caught up in the innocence of childhood. It is also easy to lose our thankfulness in the over-abundance of modern life. Two hundred extravagant treats in a year, makes it much less exciting to have a special meal on Thanksgiving Day. But lately, I've come to realize that I have so much to be thankful for...not just now, but all those great years in the past. And nothing is really lost in Christ. Someday we will also be reunited again in heaven. No doubt that everyday will be Thanksgiving then.