I am grateful for what I have. I am grateful for all the memories that make up my core, and for the constant making of new memories — good, bad, enriching, funny, challenging, it makes no nevermind.
Most of all, I am grateful for what and who I am. To borrow the words of 19th century American philosopher-poet Henry David Thoreau, my thanksgiving is perpetual.
This week, however, centers on one specific Thanksgiving, with a capital “T.”
The first Thanksgiving
The premiere American holiday rooted in 17th Century Pilgrims who were grateful for a life-saving harvest should be our favorite, if for no other reason because of its raison d’etre. It’s reason for being.
Thanksgiving should simply be the joy of gratitude. As Oprah Winfrey, Mississippi’s own dynamo, points out, if you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never have enough.
OK. I now climb off of my Thanksgiving soapbox in hopes you, too, will think about the best of holiday times past and work at creating new ones.
Thanks for the memories
My first Thanksgiving away from home happened when I was a freshman at Marshall University and didn’t have money to travel from West Virginia to the Mississippi Coast. So I headed to my grandmother’s house in rural Pennsylvania.
She had died that year but my Uncle John, his wife Joan and my 4-year-old cousin Lisa still lived in the house of such great childhood memories.
Without Grandma and Mom around, my aunt and I tackled baking our first turkey on our own. I thought I’d learned well from Mom, who always made the turkey bird a family project. The four of us kids shared in the buttering and salting under the skin, we all chopped the dressing ingredients, stuffed the cavities, took turns basting, etc., etc. etc.
Thought I knew
Yup, I was certain I knew everything there is to know about a perfect roasted turkey. Aunt Joan and I shared turkey duties and put the giant bird in the oven for a long roast, just as Mom and Grandma had always done.
Nearly five hours into the roasting process, we heard a Big Bang from the kitchen, something akin to battlefield cannon fire. The turkey was the cannon, the dressing the powder, and the oven the battlefield strewn with shreds of meat and dressing. We picked enough meat off the carcass for the meal but there were no leftovers that year.
I later learned we’d overstuffed the turkey. Expansion of the dressing as it cooked caused the bird to literally explode. Lesson learned.
And thanks for more memories
I was 27 years old and trekking across Asia, having abandoned the newsroom for the siren Call of Adventure. I was in Nepal, staying at an inexpensive guest house in Kathmandu, prepping for an Annapurna Mountain village trek I intended to turn into a magazine story.
I decided my feet needed prep for the hike so I and two new-found European friends took a day-long hike out of Kathmandu to an overlook that promised a spectacular view of the sun setting over Mount Everest. We checked into a small guest house and headed to the overlook.
What a memorable view. I was so immersed in sensory overload that I told my friends I’d head back to the hotel after I took some photos of the moon rising over Everest. They and every other hiker disappeared. The sky grew dark, the winds picked up as the temperature plumeted. Shivering shook away my reverie and I realized my mistake. Now I faced a dicey trek back to the hotel on a dark, unpaved, winding path.
Took a ride
As I started out, a taxi pulled up. The rear window rolled down as an elderly couple with a very British accent asked, “May we give you a lift?” My instincts told me the couple and taxi driver were a better alternative.
After I hopped in, Mr. and Mrs. British admitted they’d watched as everyone but me cleared off the overlook. Parental worries kicked in and they deliberately waited to see if I needed a ride in the Kathmandu cab they’d hired to avoid the strenuous hike.
As they dropped me off at the guest house, he said, “You do realize it’s your American Thanksgiving, don’t you?”
I admitted I’d forgotten. I had no turkey that year and no family nearby but it remains one of my more memorable Thanksgivings and yet another reason for my perpetual thankfulness.
Kat Bergeron, a veteran feature writer specializing in Gulf Coast history and sense of place, is retired from the Sun Herald. She writes the Mississippi Coast Chronicles column as a freelance correspondent. Reach her at BergeronKat@gmail.com or at Southern Possum Tales, P.O. Box 33, Barboursville VA 22923.
Scott, here is my Nov. 20th column for Thanksgiving and two illustrations from pixabay, the clip/photosite that needs no credit line or attribution and can be used for commercial use. Thanks, Kat
a day to share (pixabay, cutline unnecessary but...)
Thanksgiving is more than a day to share food. It is a day to share ourselves and past mem-ories and to make new ones with family and friends...or strangers in need.
turkey (pixabay, cutline unnecessary but...)
A turkey is the center of most Thanksgiving observances. Just getting the turkey cooked can be an explosive story by itself.