What does Thanksgiving mean to you?
To me Thanksgiving is more than a day for turkey and dressing - although you can be sure that I will have more than my share of both. Thanksgiving day is a day for tradition and love, for family togetherness. It is a day for coffee punch and sentimental reflections. For my husband it is a day for football and much needed relaxation. For my two younger children, it is a day to build targets and shoot BB guns then go out into the woods and look for natures treasures. For my oldest, well, they are teenagers and whatever suits their fancy for the day, that is what that day means to them.
But there is a magical moment on Thanksgiving Day, a moment when every belly is full and eyes are heavy and ready for sleep, not because the day is done but because the feast, now in our bodies, bids us to rest. Yes, there is that moment when someone, we are never sure who, says, "Where are the boxes Mammaw?" Tired eyes around the room open with anticipation and a small line forms, with Mammaw as the leader. We become her little drones following, waiting, wondering which box we will get to take to the family room. The boxes are set carefully down on the floor and everyone steps back. What about the dishes? Who will clear the plates and put away the food? No time for that! There is work to be done! From the largest box I pull the sacred tree parts; and, from another Mom gathers strings of white lights. "Lighting the tree" is my job. So, for a while, everyone returns to their places.
When the tree is up and fully lit an angel is placed on top. She has watched our family Christmas' for years. She saw me the Christmas morning that I was put into the hospital. I was six years old and very sick. I saw her then and was comforted. I see her now and am emotional. Those are years gone by, good years and full.
Other boxes are opened and inside we find treasures from our past. White tissue paper is carefully pulled back and there lay glittery white, starched, hand crocheted snowflakes made by my grandmother. Along side those are ones made by me. I needed to carry on her traditions. I need to teach my children to crochet. She entrusted that gift to me.
In small velvet covered boxes are brass charms with engravings "To my wonderful teacher" a token of the love of countless children who were taught by my mom, a token also of the admiration of parents who entrusted the care of their children to my mom. She never let them down.
Further down in those boxes are paper gingerbread men. They are roughly cut and slathered in white school glue and sprinkled with cinnamon, which has long lost it's scent. An excited voice calls out, "Where's mine?" Then another, "I don't know. Look on the back." The children come in to help. Sure enough, there are four nearly identical gingerbread men, each with its own little mishaps each bearing one of my children's names on it, each lovingly made for Mammaw, each kept as if it were a priceless gift. They are.
And so it goes. Paper is carefully pulled away from tiny bundles and "Oh, I remember..." stories are shared. One by one each person has come to join in, even if only during commercial breaks, until sometime late in the evening a tree full of memories has been set up in Mammaw's and Pappaw's living room, a tree that will call us together again on many days over the next month, until that special day when we squeeze onto Mammaw's and Pappaw's couches and read the Christmas story from our large family Bible, the same one we read from when I was a little girl. We sing carols and make memories, memories that will be stored in our hearts like boxes in the closet, waiting for us to tenderly unwrap them and share them with others, memories that bring us closer together, memories that cause us to give thanks.