MONROE MEMORIES AT THANKSGIVING

 

          Thanksgiving is upon us once again.  One of the most loved, anticipated and appreciated holidays we have.  A time to reflect on our lives and the blessings that have been bestowed to us during our lifetime and to offer up appreciation for the riches we have. 

          I have penned in one of my chapbooks the following quote by an Army surgeon at Valley Forge on the national day of Thanksgiving, 1789, who wrote: “Mankind is never truly thankful for the benefits of life until they have experienced the want of them.”

          For many of us at this holiday season, we feel so blessed and fortunate in having the lives we do and the riches which have been bestowed on us from infancy on. We have lived in a wonderful Southern town, grown up among friends, neighbors and family, were given good educations and have led productive lives.  It is during this time of year we should offer up our appreciation to the skies for the blessings we have.  Ronald Reagan eloquently expressed a perfect sentiment for the season we enjoy in his 1984 Thanksgiving Proclamation: “As we remember the faith and values that made American great, we should recall that our tradition of Thanksgiving is older than our nation itself.  Indeed, the Native American Thanksgiving antedated those of the new Americans.  In the words of the Seneca traditions of the Iroquois, ‘Give it your thought, that with one mind we may now give thanks to Him, our creator.’”

          Thinking back over sixty plus years, there are a lot of happy memories stored in the old mind bank celebrating Monroe, Georgia at Thanksgiving. Traditions, memories and appreciations abound for me in remembering our little town then and all the changes that have come about at holiday time in 2015.

          Ah, the traditions of years past ring loud and bring smiles to my face in remembering the first snaps of cold weather, when we roused up the old furnace in the basement from its year-long sleep and the burping, belching, gurgling sound it made slowly coming to life and offering up the first warm breaths of heat to knock off the chill of the house.  How this time of year brought an excited animation to downtown as the townsfolk seemed to converge on the grocery stores and markets all in search of all the needed ingredients to prepare yet another table-bending display of holiday fare for family and friends.  The welcome sights of the farmers from the country coming to town with their old trucks bulging with the bounties of their fields; fruits, vegetables, hams, chickens and yes, turkeys all going straight to the grocers  all the while getting to stop in town and catch up with friends on the news.

          The anticipation of those few, glorious days of break from our studies when textbooks were forgotten and the most important thing was to dive into a huge pile of freshly raked leaves, creating more havoc and anger for those who just completed raking the pile.  Or the sight and smell of tendrils of smoke rising from a leaf mound in a neighbor’s driveway so when one pile burned up another could be created.  Eagerly anticipating the Friday night football game at the old Kiwanis Field or Legion Field as we cheered our “Purple Hurricanes” to a much hoped-for victory; the annual parades through downtown Monroe featuring our beloved Monroe Girls Corps officially welcoming in the season; the endless social gatherings taking place the entire week of Thanksgiving, from the morning coffee prior to the Georgia- Georgia Tech games to smaller gatherings of friends & family as they reunite to catch up on happenings during the year.

          I always anticipated the morning my father would unlock the basement door to go down and select the oldest country ham hanging on hooks on the rafters to take to town to have sliced.  Half of the ham would be for family; the other half given to friends to enjoy along with some of his “holiday libation” as he called it.  I never knew where it came from until I was in college, but I do remember the many happy smiles that spread across friends and neighbors on Walton Street, Jackson Street and his business associates.  For some, that old Ball jar full of amber liquid might have been more appreciated than the country ham!

          The holiday dinners at the family home place on Edwards Street were always memorable.  When the invites went out in mid-October it went without saying there would be several seating’s at the dinner table to accommodate all the relatives who gathered usually with the youngsters rounding out the list.  We always wondered if there would be enough food left for us to enjoy, but Isabelle, my grandmother’s cook, made sure there was always plenty to go around.

          Thanksgiving Day is our final look as the colorful autumn landscape turns a bit barren as snow blankets some areas and with the shortened hours of sunlight, lamps are turned low while the land begins a long night of sleep as we await the rebirth and freshness of spring.

          And, when the holiday is only a memory and our stomachs return back to normal from the busting point, disappointment does not linger long as we know Christmas is just around the corner with more celebrations to come!

          In observing how most everything changes, it is a comfort to me the traditions of the holidays we love most, Thanksgiving and Christmas, seem to stay the same.  As each year retreats into history and becomes our newest memory and tradition, we look forward to the upcoming holidays to enjoy and add to our ever growing list of treasured holiday memories.

          The most poignant part of these seasons is reflecting back on the family and friends who left our side during the year.  Losing family and friends takes away from the excitement of the season, leaving a void which cannot be filled; knowing there are fewer hands to shake or hold, no hugs to be had or laughs to be shared from those who were present the previous year. But leave it to the ever gentle, wise and kind Dr. Seuss, who said so perfectly, “Don’t be sad they are gone from us, but be happy they lived and were a part of our lives.”

          The beloved author O. Henry captured this beautiful season as only he could, when he wrote, “Thanksgiving…..is the one day that is purely American.”

          Best wishes to each of you for a memorable, happy and safe Thanksgiving Day!