Tears and Laughter: Who are you grateful for?

We used to make pilgrim hats and turkeys out of construction paper. We would hang them in the windows at Thomasville Elementary School so everybody driving by on West Front Street would see that we were thankful.

We would all have a chance to say what we were thankful for as the last few minutes ticked slowly into history before the final bell rang. One boy said deer season, and another said he was most grateful for Alabama football. One girl said she loved her family, but was thankful for her horse and her cat too.

My family, had once been people who had marked time by seasons of labor – people who prided themselves in knowing when to break ground, plant, and harvest. They were like most families across the South and believed every vegetable they had grown in the garden over the summer should be represented in some form at the Thanksgiving table.

Creamed corn was a favorite, as well as purple hulled peas that had whole small tender okra boiled in with them. There would be turnips with bacon, butterbeans, baked sweet potatoes, stewed squash, and green bean casserole.

Mama would start cooking as soon as she got home from work after stopping at Super Foods on Wednesday evening. I thought every mama everywhere did the same thing.

She would continue the cooking the next morning while we watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. She would make over the floats and how long it had to have taken to design them and put them together.

Before the parade would end, we would load the car with Tupperware bowls and corning ware and drive the 15 minute backroad drive through Choctaw Corner to get to Granny’s house in Clayhill.

She would be watching the parade too. “Hey doll,” she would say, and she hug me. She did this with all of us, every time.

Granddaddy would be in his recliner reading the paper and waiting on family, football and food.

The counters would be covered with cakes and pies and breads and puddings. She would be mixing cornbread dressing in a huge mixing bowl. I would sit at the bar watching her, asking questions, until cousins begin to arrive and then we would disappear into our world of play until Aunt Mary came out and called for us. “It’s time for the blessing,” she would say, and we would hurry inside with her following in behind us, reminding us to wash our hands before we ate.

Granddaddy never bored us or bothered the Lord with too many words or long drawn out prayers. But even as short as his blessings were, we always peeked out at one another with one eye. We would grin, but our heads stayed bowed.

Year after year we did this. It was our tradition. And we were thankful, the best we knew how, for what we had. We had after all hung our pilgrim hats and paper turkeys in the windows at Thomasville Elementary. We just couldn’t grasp it then I guess. We were just too young to know. It wasn’t just about what we had. It was also about being grateful for who we had.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.