The Prayer for Thanksgiving
The best part of Thanksgiving is biting into my Mamaw’s pumpkin pie, topped with a large spoonful of whipped topping, which I scoop out of the bowl and thrust onto the pie in a large, undignified glob. Anybody can make pumpkin pie by just following the recipe on a can of pumpkin, but I’ve never eaten one that comes close to the way my Mamaw’s tastes.
I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner at my grandparent’s house this year. Life has thrusts its busyness on me in the same way I thrust the Coolwhip onto my pie. And though life is sweet, it’s tastes change year after year. I wouldn’t trade the new spices I’ve collected over the years for anything, but some of the old spices are great memories.
I can still smell the fresh corn and beans being shucked and strung on the carport as the summer days cooled down into evening. I remember my sister on her tricycle running down any of the beans that missed their way into the pan. I still smell the grape jelly being made in the kitchen, and hear the thththththth and sizzle of the pressure cooker when green beans were being canned.
Many summers I would spend a whole week at my grandparent’s house. Even though home was within walking distance. I would pack my clothes in a large paper bag and my mother would drive me over. The warm night air was a contrast to the cool water I had to drink before bedtime, after brushing my teeth. In the bathroom were the smells of my Mamaw’s Aqua Net and my Papaw’s Tussy Red and Barbersol, a combination rich to the senses. I can still close my eyes and, drawing in a deep breath through my nose, smell those comforting smells that assured me a safe and restful night’s sleep. Then I would crawl into the cool covers of the big bed in the ‘“front bedroom’”, as it was called, drifting off to sleep on crisp, sun-dried sheets still fresh with the smell of bleach.
I could never wake up earlier than my grandparents. By the time I got up around 7 o’clock or so, breakfast was waiting on me and my grandparent’s were not only dressed, but were well into some gardening or household chore.
After breakfast I would go outside, always with my trusty BB gun, which was never intended for harm to any living creature though I did aim at quite a few birds. As the morning fog lifted, there were many things ahead. There were woods to be explored, there were birds to hunt (but not really shoot, remember), there were muscadines to be found on wild vines and there were imaginary wars to be won with dirt-clod grenades from the garden. At midday there was always the chance of finding a box turtle in the edge of the woods where the kitchen scraps were tossed. I even ate my first spoonful of dirt at my grandparent’s house after I had heard someone, I don’t remember who, say that you could live on it if you had to. I swiped one of my grandmother’s kitchen spoons, found a section of dirt where the grass wouldn’t grow, spooned it up, ate it, and then put the spoon back. As I recall, it didn’t taste too bad.
I remember my Papaw working in his shed. I would go in to see what was going on. The oil-soaked wood and dirt floors of the shed where the tools and lawnmower were kept gave a rustic smell that made me want to be the handyman that my Papaw was.
Some evenings all the family would come over and we would eat watermelon, cut open on fresh newspapers that did little to stop the juices from soaking through to the table. We even ate oyster stew one evening, which I tried for the first time, and the last. The dirt tasted much better.
I still carry the memories and smells with me to this day. But all the while I was learning an important lesson. My grandparents loved me, and taught me I was someone special. They loved each other, and taught me the value of true marital love and commitment, which I now have with my own wife. They read the Bible every night, and taught me of God’s love through their simple devotions and caring. They taught me that ‘“a man’s only as good as his word’”, and they taught me responsibility and values.
They’ve given me more than I can ever repay, or express thanks for. I hope that, at the end of my life, they will smile down on me and be proud.
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