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Seaborn: A memorable family Thanksgiving

Posted: November 22, 2017 - 1:39am

"We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing...

Sing praises to His name, He forgets not His own."

-Theodore Baker

It was a long drive to North Carolina for a few slices of leftover turkey and an overnight on the living room couch - with three children and an insomniac kitten in the same room. But, except for the kitten, I hardly noticed. It wasn't the Ritz. It was better than the Ritz. It was family, where the sleep-where-you-can, eat-what-we-have accommodations are some of the best in the world. Better than the alternative: having no family to drive to, sleep near, or eat with at all.

Georgia has been my home for more than 35 years, but other than my now adult children and grandchildren, my original family is scattered across the U.S. With one brother in New England, another in Florida, and uncles, cousins, and assorted other relatives in Michigan, Ohio, Texas, and Washington state, gathering around a table together for Thanksgiving or anytime is virtually impossible. So, a few years ago, when a North Carolina niece called to invite "Auntie Barbara" to her house during Thanksgiving weekend - "Dad (my youngest brother) and Mom will be here, too" - I jumped at the chance to go. Who needs a bed and private bath? I'd have slept in the car.

We may grow apart in miles, but the distance melts as soon as we're under one roof. We laugh, eat, compare ages and antics of the children and grandchildren, and always we reminisce ...

"Remember sitting on the flour barrel and the piano stool because we never had enough chairs ... listening to Jim's jokes ... skating on the muck bog ... sleeping in groups on the floor ..."

We talked of other family members, some living, some we won't see again around anyone's table, and Cousin "Melly" with the toothless laugh that was funnier than anything he ever said. Seems he had sneezed once on a fishing trip, and his dentures fell into Maine's Moosehead Lake. Then there was Uncle Gene and his pet raccoons, Aunt "Chou-Chou" with the harp, and our sainted grandmother who raised seven sons with few beds and no baths, and always had time for us. Good stock, we agreed. We may have our favorites, but we couldn't think of anyone from whom we were estranged.

It all comes back, every time. Even the kitten triggered memories: the good "mousers," the one that gave birth one cold, unheated night at the foot of my bed, and the litter born with crooked heads. Instead of walking, they hopped - sideways. Sad perhaps for the kittens, but funny as all get out to watch. Family memories, things to laugh at and, sometimes, cry about together. Things to make us say, "Sure, I'll be there," when the invitations come.

I thought about those memories all the way home, and about the one I didn't mention as we sat around that happy, crowded table. I remember how much I wanted to leave that family, get away from our sparse, less-than-dignified home. I wanted to accomplish something, have enough beds and chairs for everyone who came to visit - stuffed chairs, matching chairs, wonderfully coordinated colors in all my ample rooms, and other teenage dreams.

I had the Better Homes and Gardens formula for awhile, but I didn't always have the laughter, and few flocked to my coordinated house for overnights and leftovers. They never said, but I think they were more comfortable when I went to theirs. Today, with my still coordinated furniture weathered to a down-home, put-your-feet-up shine, I'm more comfortable in mine, too, now that I know the people who sit, eat, and sleep there are a whole lot more important than the décor.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, wherever and with whomever you share the day. And if, like me, you also remember those who are no longer around anyone's table, I think of what the eminent author C.S. Lewis said following the death of his wife: "The sadness now is part of the happiness then."

 

Barbara Seaborn is a local, free-lance writer, and author of the book, "As Long as the Rivers Run: Highlights from Columbia County's Past." E-mail comments to seabara@aol.com.

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