Monday, November 19, 2007

The Family Circle

Thanksgiving at Memaw’s house was always special. With enough food to feed the entire state of Texas, enough aunts, uncles and cousins to form our own state, and enough love to last a year, we never went away feeling hungry.

Nobody ever ate at the dining room table. There wasn’t enough room! The table was filled to overflowing with turkey, ham, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, black-eyed peas, casseroles, cornbread, banana bread and more!

The wide deep-freeze served as a dessert table, with every mouth-watering delicacy imaginable. Each dish was made by the skillful, loving hands of my East Texas relatives. Wrinkled aluminum foil was bent back and replaced time and again, as we nibbled cakes, pies and cookies throughout the day.

Every year was the same. We all gathered around the big table and held hands. Usually the “circle” spilled into the kitchen and living room. My dad would say a prayer, thanking God for His bountiful blessings, and then we’d dig in!

There were always a few seconds of “You go first!”

“No, you go on ahead.”

Until finally Uncle Maurice would growl, “Move out of my way! I’ll go first!”

We would all laugh and file in line. The last person in line never had to worry, either. There was more than enough of everything to feed our crew for days!

Memaw would sit in queenly quest as children and grandchildren scrambled to serve her. She didn’t say much, but the twinkle in her eye said it all. This was the one day of the year when all her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were together under one roof. She treasured every moment, and we treasured her.

Laughter rang from every corner of the old farmhouse – the kitchen, the bedrooms, the porch – and Memaw just listened and smiled. When the weather permitted, many of us “young ‘uns” would take our Chinette plates onto the wooden porch steps, or sit with our legs dangling from one tailgate or another. The men would sit around and talk about the weather, or about hunting. The women would sit and talk about the men.

In January of 1994, Memaw went to be with our Lord. Uncle Maurice followed just four months later. Thanksgiving is different now. And yet, surprisingly the same.

Mark, the kids and I will join my brother Shelby and sister-in-law, Debbie, along with their three children. Mom will fix her famous dressing – the dressing for which there is no recipe. “Just a little of this, and a little of that . . . “ Dad will probably say the prayer, just like always. Countertops and tabletops will be full of more food than we will be able to consume in many meals.

After the meal, the kids will run around and whoop and holler, just like always. Mark, Dad and Shelby will sit around and talk about hunting. Mom, Debbie and I will sit around and talk about kids and husbands.

Our celebration is smaller now, but there is every bit as much love. I know if we listen closely enough, we will hear Uncle Maurice growl. And I know, somehow, that Memaw will be smiling with that twinkle in her eye as she, PaPa, and all our other loved ones who have gone on to glory look down on each of us who are left behind, all together under the same heaven.

Psalm 68:6 “God sets the lonely in families.”

2 comments:

Bonnie W said...

What a wonderful holiday legacy to leave our families - the memories of thanksgivings past. Your story so much like my ownm though with a PA Dutch flair at my house.

My aunts, uncles and Grandmother are all celebrating in heaven, but the traditions they started linger on.

Thanks for the tears in the eyes, the lump in the throat and the smile in my heart from reading your post.
Bonnie

Judi "Jlo" Moran: said...

Oh, Renae, you made me cry.
What a beautiful tribute to family, so vivid, with such loving, descriptive detail, like the "aluminum foil" line.
Now, you got me missing my family.
I mean my extended family of aunts and uncles in Arkansas, all but one now in Heaven.
What a treasure we have - do you realize my own children never had that.
And they feel the loss.
How lucky we are!
Much love on this thankful day,
Jlo