By TERRY CUMMINS
I’m an over-the-river-and-through-the woods Thanksgiving-type person. I grew up on the land where our crops and garden grew. My mother cooked our three meals each day grown on our land. We had fresh vegetables and fruits from the garden or, in the winter, from the rows of filled jars in the cellar. Our meat was the chicken, lamb, pork and beef we tended every day. We lived off the land, which provided nearly everything we needed, and we were thankful.
My mother took special pride in her meal on Thanksgiving Day when many of our kin gathered in. Kinfolks were special back then, because they were family and we cared for them. All living plants and animals on our land were part family, too, and we took care of them. Seldom did we ever think, “I don’t care,” back when blessings were recognized.
On Thanksgiving Day, my mother, with others pitching in, set a table that you can’t buy. There’s a distinct difference between the food you’ve worked year-round to grow and that from a convenient store. The food my mother cooked had an aroma, flavor and taste all its own. We felt the nourishment and strength from the foods picked and prepared by our glad hands.
My mother baked a turkey and a ham for Thanksgiving and set them on the table beside mashed potatoes, candied yams, buttered corn and green beans seasoned perfectly with bits of ham hock. She set the stuffing beside a bowl of giblet gravy, and if you were weak, you’d flounder right there. I learned to save space for the oyster dressing, pickled beets, bread and butter pickles, relishes, peas with cream sauce, homemade hot rolls and cranberries, which I skipped.
We had jars of gooseberries, blackberries and raspberries in the cellar, but my mother was a traditionalist, and if cranberries were good enough for the Pilgrims, they were good enough for us. At the end of the table, she set pecan, pumpkin and long-neck squash pies beside fresh whipped cream if you wanted it. Oysters, pecans and cranberries were about the only thing she had to buy.
Although we gave the blessing and thanks, it wasn’t necessary. Our family knew it and felt it before we said it, because we appreciated what we had. Compared to the material things we have today, we had so little back then, and greed was beyond us. Getting all you can get was a sin, as was a lack of appreciation for what we had. We had each other and the fertile land. What more did we need?
Well, it came to pass we needed more, more than we can store, which now takes all our time. There isn’t time to give thanks, and that’s why we need more Thanksgiving days and dinners to do nothing but eat, rest and talk about the good things in life.
Offering thanks once a year is not enough. Although the traditional Thanksgiving Day is a celebration of a bountiful harvest, we stuff ourselves the other 364 days each year without giving thanks a thought. Half of us take for granted that abundance is a given to be taken without a moment’s pause to express gratitude. We give thanks that day with little thought of where the bounty came from. God gave it to us. No, he didn’t, but he gave us the land to grow it, and we don’t preserve, conserve or care for it. In a few short years, where does the food come from for the additional one-billion people? Whom do we blame when the oil dries up and the land wears out?
If I ruled the world, I’d dictate a world Thanksgiving Day where all the world’s people sat together and shared the bounty. There would be plenty to go around if we spread the wealth for just one day. I’d have people with plenty sit with the one-third who are hungry. Since most of us have one thing in common, a belief in God, I’d require Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christian and atheists, too, to sit side-by-side. Bankers would sit with those on minimum wage, and athletes with those without limbs. Although risky, I’d insist liberals and conservatives sit together to break bread, and not heads.
If we could come together one day each year, we might learn to say to those who are different, but with hearts and a spirit the same as yours and mine, “Thanks for coming, we’ll do it again.”
— Contact Terry Cummins at TLCTLC@AOL.com