Happy Thanksgiving Eve, friends!
We’ve been busy packing and baking and acting and singing turkey songs in kindergarten, and eating a half-dozen turkey lunches on plastic cafeteria trays, and making paper Indian head-dresses and lighting the first fire in the fireplace and shivering from the cold.
Thus begins my favorite time of the year, right up there next to Holy Week.
And I’m welcomed by my childhood memories, that come fast every November: Of driving through the Piney Woods of East Texas to my Big Daddy and Granny’s home on the lake. My young self, visualizing all the other cousins, aunts and uncles driving too, drawn like magnets to this low-slung house sprawled beneath the pine trees. I’d fall asleep, draped across the backseat, to the hum of the engine and the murmuring of Rush Limbaugh on the radio and the smell of What-a-Burger french fries. Arriving to arms all wrapped around my neck, this new family of mine, adopting me as if I was always theirs. Playing in the woods, shivering, building teepee houses with my cousin from fallen tree limbs and rotten logs. Nestling our dolls in the pine needles, every once in a while an aunt or uncle or cousin crunching through to see if we were still there, and then moving on to the lake, to the boat, to adults sitting in swings and plastic chairs up the hill on the deck. The year my dad called from San Antonio, and I sat on the end of my Granny and Big Daddy’s bed as he told me my baby sister had been born, and I floated for the rest of the day. Of the traditional bonfire, sitting around with the good smells of kerosene, grownup’s beer and fire smoke mixed with piney cold, gazing up at the stars, but missing them for the tall, tall boughs of the pine trees, hanging above us like feathery arms. Food endlessly piled on the kitchen counter. A bottomless green Tupperware of cookies. Louisiana cousins teaching me the glories of coffee milk and their slow soft drawl. Sleeping in various clumps in corners of the house, as the adults occupied all the beds. Sleeping bags, air mattresses and blankets tangling. Lines out the bathroom door for all the girls and their blue eyeliner and aerosol hairspray. Of the hard goodbyes and wondering if we could bear to wait again ’till next year. Only the excitement of the coming Christmas to keep us company on the lonely long drive home.
And now we won’t go back – to that house – because someone else lives there now. And they’ve chopped down all the pines.
We are grown, as old as our parents were in those memories. All spread out, some in heaven, the rest across Texas.
But we are thankful. And full of love. And will always remember.
The Gathering, a Thanksgiving Poem
by Billy Collins
Outside, the scene was right for the season,
heavy gray clouds and just enough wind
to blow down the last of the yellow leaves.
But the house was different that day,
so distant from the other houses,
like a planet inhabited by only a dozen people
with the same last name and the same nose
rotating slowly on its invisible axis.
Too bad you couldn’t be there
but you were flying through space on your own asteroid
with your arm around an uncle.
You would have unwrapped your scarf
and thrown your coat on top of the pile
then lifted a glass of wine
as a tiny man ran across a screen with a ball.
You would have heard me
saying grace with my elbows on the tablecloth
as one of the twins threw a dinner roll across the room at the other.