CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With Thanksgiving only a few days away, I can almost smell turkey roasting, yeast rolls rising and the spicy aroma of pumpkin pie wafting through the house. These smells, whether real or imaginary, always elicit memories of childhood and home sweet home."Nothing revives the past so completely as a smell that was once associated with it," says Vladimir Nabokov, a Russian-American novelist. What an accurate statement!Many of us reflect on lovely memories of past holidays, but there's one I particularly enjoy recalling -- the Thanksgiving Day of my earliest memory. I believe I was about 5.Even though my parents had been telling me for days that this grand day was coming, I was nonetheless surprised when I awakened to the unusual aroma of a turkey that had been roasting in the oven since before daylight. How gratifying it was to go padding into the warm kitchen and find my mother totally involved in preparations for this important occasion.To a small child, our kitchen was a wonderland of appetizing foods and delightful scents. As I attempted to take it all in, my eyes paused briefly on a couple of pans of puffy homemade rolls rising up out of their containers and several mouthwatering pies waiting to be consumed -- the traditional pumpkin; spicy apple with a flaky, golden lattice crust; and my father's favorite, coconut crème.A huge pan of bread that had been broken into small pieces sat on the kitchen table. This included homemade corn bread and crackers. My mother had chopped onions and celery and cooked them until they were tender before adding them to the bread for stuffing.I watched as my mother diced apples, oranges, pineapple, peaches and pears into a large bowl. Then she added grapes, maraschino cherries, walnuts and a little sugar. When she mixed it all together, it made a beautiful bowl of fruit salad, which she spooned into individual bowls, topped with whipped cream and placed in the refrigerator to chill until dinner was ready.
We rarely used our dining room table, but that day I was surprised to find it covered with a white tablecloth and set with colorful dishes, a vase of flowers, our best silverware and cloth napkins.Some of my favorite aunts, uncles and cousins began to arrive, and I knew it was going to be a fun day.When the turkey was finally done and transferred to a large platter, it was almost time to eat. I couldn't wait! The rest of the food was brought to the table and everyone sat down and joined hands while my father said grace."We thank you, God, for this food. Please bless the hands that prepared it," he said. I smiled, pleased that he was asking God to bless my mother's hands.The plates were filled to overflowing with the delightful foods, and amid the laughter and lively conversation of people I loved and who loved me, I experienced the first Thanksgiving of my memory. Remembering it fills my heart with joy and my eyes with tears.It's time, once again, to honor a tradition that most of us have been paying tribute to our whole lives. It is a time to be thankful for our many blessings; a time to express gratitude for each beloved friend and family member; each lovingly prepared plate of food. It is a day of peace, a day of oneness, a day of celebration and a day of love. We are blessed beyond measure.Thanksgiving brings families together and creates lasting memories. And home is the center of it all. Home is truly where the heart is.Peggy Horton, of Nitro, may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.