Sharing stories helps us to be thankful

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 30, 2013

It was an hour at which most sane people were sleeping soundly.

Not me. I had a pie in one oven, was roasting pecans in the other, and had a huge mess on my kitchen work table, where I was assembling cornbread dressing.

It is in quiet times like those that the words of First Presbyterian’s Bob Masden’s community thanksgiving message have been with me.

“Understanding why we’re thankful is an important part of being thankful,” he told the worshipers gathered, adding that that was why Moses sat his people down and recounted their stories before crossing to the promised land.

His message underscored for me why tradition-laden Thanksgiving is my favorite.

On this holiday every year, I recreate a version of my grandmother’s savory dressing. I think of her as I add pepper, poultry seasoning and sage, trying to get it just right. I am reminded of the long table in the dining room of the farmhouse, and the lively conversations there.

On to sweet potatoes, and I wonder what year it was my mother introduced to the larger family gatherings what would become one of her signature dishes. I try not to think about the amount of butter and sugar involved in creating the casserole and resolve that once a year, it can be OK.

The construction of a pecan pie puts me in the leaves helping to gather the nuts, or reminds me of the grocery sacks full our granddaddy used to share.

There are people who are family members by blood, and those who become members of the “extended family” by choice. Apple pie puts me in the company of the latter, a sweet Mennonite woman who baked everything with love, shared her Dutch apple pie recipe, and gave me a saying that our family has adopted as our own: “Apple pie without cheese is like a hug without a squeeze.”

We never made homemade apple pie before that, much less with cheddar; we always have it now, and my father and brothers always ask me to add cheese.

These are my stories. I love reliving them, remembering those who’ve gone on, and feeling thankful as we share the traditions each year.

On Thanksgiving day. I sat for a while with a man who enjoyed his holiday lunch at the church, and listened as he shared the story of how he ended up homeless. With God’s help, he said, he overcame those circumstances. This is his story, and he was thankful, indeed.

Here’s hoping you find time this holiday season to recount the stories that make you thankful.