Essays on Faith: The first Thanksgiving of my memory

With Thanksgiving Day 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!

As I think back to years past — way back to my childhood — I remember joyful holidays. I can’t recall even one time that my mother was too tired or too busy to prepare a wonderful Thanksgiving meal. And I have not one shred of memory of anything except cheerfulness throughout the entirety of the holiday season.

My mind has retained only pictures of enjoyable times with family and friends: laughter, an overabundance of mouth-watering foods and contentment.

Nothing but wonderful memories.

At this special time of year, 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 was about 5 years old.

Even though my parents had been telling me for days that this grand day was approaching, I was nonetheless surprised when I awoke 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 like me, our kitchen was a wonderland of appetizing foods and delightful scents that were beyond description. 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 mouth-watering pies waiting to be consumed. There were the traditional pumpkin pies; 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 cornbread and crackers. My mother had chopped onions and celery and cooked them until they were tender before adding them to the bread for stuffing. The cooking of these two items greatly enhanced the pleasing aroma that already pervaded every inch of the house.

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 today, 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. It looked so pretty!

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! My mother brought the rest of the food to the table and everyone sat down and joined hands while my father said grace.

“Dear God, as we gather around this bountiful table with family and friends, we thank You for the many ways You provide for us, comfort us and protect us. May our hearts be full of thanksgiving not only today but every day of our lives. We thank You for this food. Please bless it to the nourishment of our bodies and bless the hands that prepared it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

I smiled, pleased to hear my father asking God to bless my mother’s hands.

The plates were filled to overflowing with the delightful foods my mother had prepared, and amid laughter and lively conversation of people I loved and who loved me, I experienced the first Thanksgiving of my memory. It was a wonderful day. 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.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro.

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Funerals for Sunday, December 8, 2019

Board, Dencil - 3 p.m., Curry Funeral Home, Alum Creek.

Booher, Hughes - 3 p.m., Maranatha Fellowship, St. Albans.

Carpenter, Homer - 2 p.m., Hafer Funeral Home, Elkview.

Collins, Jacob - 2 p.m., Morris Funeral Home, Cowen.

Donahue-Moubray, Kathleen - 3 p.m., Haven of Rest Mausoleum, Red House.

Estes, Peggy - 2 p.m., Chapman Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Friel, Ruth - 1 p.m., Lantz Funeral Home, Buckeye.

Johnson, Marvin - 1 p.m., High Lawn Mausoleum, Oak Hill.

Linville, Vada - 2 p.m., Orchard Hills Memory Gardens, Yawkey.

Pettit, Michele - 3:30 p.m., Faith Baptist Church, Spencer.

Prue, Margaret - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Scott, Robert - 3 p.m., Capital High School, Charleston.

Smith, Wanda - 3 p.m., Billy Hunt Cemetery, Kettle Road.

Sneed, Virginia - 2 p.m., Waybright Funeral Home, Ripley.