I remember the magical days leading up to Thanksgiving. I didn’t know it then, but they were magical because they were super and at the same time very natural.
The super kindness of and to strangers, the familiarity of family and the smells of goodness all collided into what I know as Thanksgiving.
Yet, it was all very natural. As a people and as family, kindness was pervasive and second nature. Family was everywhere, and it was delightful … for the most part. The smells and aromas of good food never disappointed.
All the family is welcome
My family observed Thanksgiving in very traditional ways. We were especially kind and thoughtful during Thanksgiving. We were genuinely interested in how each other was doing, and we hoped for the best.
All were welcomed as we took in the holiday and gave thanks. Family, friends, friends of the family and friends of friends were invited to the celebration.
I would like to think we always are kind to each other. However, Thanksgiving brought on a magical kind of kindness. Uncles who usually were no-shows at family gatherings throughout the year were received with open arms at Thanksgiving. Nieces, nephews and cousins sometimes known as “troublemakers” simply were seen as “family” at Thanksgiving.
The icing on the cake were the new family babies. Kindness was lavished on them.
A particular Thanksgiving gathering comes to mind. I was experiencing a tough year. Going home and seeing familiar faces and smiles brought incredible joy to my heart. I not only knew I was home, I felt at home. My spirit was magically renewed, and I had the assurance “all is well.”
What was most memorable about that particular Thanksgiving was seeing an aunt with whom I share similar features. Though not sure why, staring at her reminded me that not only is all well, but I belonged. I needed that sense of belonging and the kindness of family, and I received what I needed.
Getting ready for the “Big Day”
I’m grateful for Thanksgiving because of its pull to gather and celebrate. Thanksgiving was not just a single day of celebration. Rather, the days leading up to Thanksgiving also were celebratory.
There were small gatherings centered on preparing for the “Big Day.” Take-out and delivery meals were a must as we determined who was cooking what, whose house would be the gathering place, who was coming and when would we start.
Shopping for the Thanksgiving meal was a big part of the celebration. I remember hearing, “Don’t wait until the last minute to grocery shop.” Sometimes, we shopped in advance, and sometimes we didn’t. When we didn’t, crowded stores and long check-out lanes were the consequence.
Thinking back, preparing for Thanksgiving was better at times than the day itself. For one, we got to enjoy preparation for at least a week, the anticipation of a fun-filled day was high, and the break from our normal routine was a wonderful escape. Preparation time was family bonding time.
The memories of sharing stories while peeling potatoes and picking greens still sustain me, but as a young girl, I didn’t appreciate this time. I wasn’t one who particularly liked being in the kitchen. I much preferred reading a book; so, preparing food was a chore. Thank God, my mother made me help her.
Even now, I can see vividly my mother in the kitchen, preparing dressing with chicken, duck or turkey, sweet potatoes, pies, collard greens and a host of other side dishes.
My youngest uncle likely would be grilling something while his wife baked all kinds of delicious desserts. Another aunt also would prepare dressing, cakes, pies and her signature deviled eggs. Many cousins, nieces and nephews purchased drinks and small items to make sure all necessities were there. As I grew older, I became responsible for bringing paper products, which worked out well for me.
The pinnacle of the “Big Day”
Dinner was one of the best parts of Thanksgiving. Yes, kindness was and is important, family and the comfort of family are extraordinary, but the meal—from preparation to finished product—is everything.
I am so grateful I come from a long line of great cooks. Holiday meals were opportunities to eat really, really good food. Thanksgiving was a fairly traditional menu for us, along with special items we didn’t typically have throughout the year.
Beyond the meal, home is magic. Being home, feeling the love, sharing appreciation, being thankful and eating the delicious meal God blessed us with and family members prepared was magic.
The real supernatural to all of this, though, was growing up in a home that worshipped God. We gave thanks to him and for him.
“Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to him with psalms” (Psalm 95:2 NKJV).
Lisa M. Rainey, Ph.D., is an experienced educator. She and her husband, Daniel, are members of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas. The views expressed are those solely of the author.