Thanksgiving (a.k.a., Delicious Food Day!)
Daddy and Mama arose early on Thanksgiving morning. She and several of the church ladies had spent most of the previous afternoon decorating the house. I must admit, it looked beautiful with the Christmas tree twinkling in the corner, the large golden bells with big red bows adorning the fireplace mantel, and greenery everywhere. They had set up a manger scene on a table in front of the living room window. I had overheard Mama tell one of the ladies, “This should be front and center. After all, we are celebrating Christ’s birth, so He should have the most prominent place in the room.” The figures glowed with inner lighting, and there was even a star and an angel with the scene.
I had never seen so many pretty, twinkling lights. The house smelled like cedar, the greenery wreaths adorned with red velvet bows and holly, and happy Christmas music played softly in the background as everyone scurried around to get the house ready for Thanksgiving.
“Philip, oh how I hope Mom likes the coat I made her! I wrapped it last week and put it in the hall closet. Will you bring it in here for me, please?” And I suppose she’ll drag out my hat and coat, too. I’ve thought about it a lot, and I think Mama really thinks I look handsome in them, so I’ll just put up with all the laughter. Besides, Papa will be here, and he loves me so much I think I can handle the situation, I suppose.
The first to arrive were Kurt and Bethany. She exclaimed, “Oh Holly, your big tummy is so cute!”
Mama hugged her. “You wouldn’t think so if you had to carry it around for a while.” Bethany said she had made a chocolate cake with cherry filling between the layers, since their mom loved chocolate so much. Mama rubbed her tummy and licked her lips in anticipation, since she loved chocolate, too. Bethany asked where she should put cake, and Mama told her to put it on the counter in the center. “After all, today is her birthday, and we don’t want her to feel like an afterthought. Thanksgiving should come in second today.”
As Bethany complied, Mama told her to come into the hall so she could show her something. Here goes. My reputation is now ruined for life.
While Kurt and Philip were talking in the living room, I heard Bethany squeal, “I love it! Where did you get such an idea? Sarge, come here, buddy.” Here goes—lamb to the slaughter. I dragged myself into the hall, where Bethany was holding my hat and coat. She was saying, “And these match Mom’s coat you made? Oh, she will love that. We’ll have to be sure to take some pictures with both of them wearing their new coats.” Not if I can help it, but I have a feeling I won’t have much say in this matter.
Before long, the others arrived at various times, and the house was full of laughter, good smells, barking, and joy. Grandma and Dorothy exclaimed over the beautiful Christmas decorations, but since it was almost time for the meal, Mama tapped on a glass to get everyone’s attention. “Mom, today is Thanksgiving, and we find it most appropriate that it is also your birthday, because all of us are so thankful to have you. We love you so much, and we appreciate you even more. God gave us a ‘good mama,’ and we thank Him for you. We want you to open your presents first before we eat.”
Mavis smiled, then added: “Well, if my head were to swell over such nice compliments, I can always remember what your dad told me years ago when my birthday came on Thanksgiving. I pointed out that fact, and he said, ‘How appropriate! It’s called Turkey Day!’” Everyone burst out laughing.
With that, Clark put hand over his heart and commented, “I plead guilty.”
She continued: “That was one of the FEW times he’s gotten me!”
Clark laughed. “Yeah, but you must admit that it was a good one!”
“Presents! Open your presents!” Steve said loudly. He brought all the gifts over for Mavis to unwrap. “Not to be rude, but hurry up and open them—we’re hungry, and that food smells mighty good!”
Mama made sure her gift was saved for last. Mavis unwrapped a lovely silver necklace and earrings from Grandma and Papa, her favorite perfume and a beautiful amethyst ring from Clark, and a bright red sweater with gold buttons from Kurt and Bethany. Steve and Dorothy gave her a jungle print handbag and golden elephant necklace. “Oh, I love everything,” she exclaimed.
Shyly, Mama produced her package and handed it to her mother. “Mom, this is for you from Philip, Sarge, and me. I really hope you like it.”
Puzzled, Mavis took the gift and began opening it. When she pushed back the tissue paper and lifted out the fleece jacket, she was speechless for a moment. “Honey, I’ve been wanting one of these, and I love it—especially the colors.”
Daddy whispered something in her ear. “You made this for me yourself? Oh, I love it even more, then!” She put it on immediately, turning around so everyone could admire the coat. Daddy said, “My part was listening to Holly while she was trying to figure out how to put it together.”
Mama added, “And I called Grandma, who told me how to attach the collar properly.”
“She did a real fine job on it as far as I can tell,” said Grandma, inspecting a buttonhole.
Daddy then announced, “Since she had some material left over, she also made a coat and hat for Sarge. You should see him wearing ’em. He’s quite a fashion model.” I do believe that my life, as I know it, is now over.
But Papa piped up, “Those gifts are beautiful. Happy birthday, and I’d like to see Sarge’s coat and hat, but I’m hongry. Let’s eat!”
Mavis, also hungry, stated, “Fine by me—we can see those afterwards!” and began clearing away the gift boxes and wrapping paper. The others pitched in to speed up the process. Oh, Papa, you’ve come to my rescue once again. I love you!
Gathering around the dining room table and holding hands, all bowed their heads while Papa said grace. With his “Amen,” happy talk filled the house once more as they sat down to eat. Even Zoe and Charlie were allowed to lie under the table, but I got in my usual spot under Papa’s chair, and he didn’t disappoint me at all.
* * *
Oh, what a meal it was. The turkey was perfect, and Papa even managed to give me a bite of corn pudding, macaroni and cheese, and green bean casserole. All were delicious, too. When it was finished, down to the last bite of dessert, Dorothy commented, “Why do we stuff ourselves into oblivion on Thanksgiving Day and then just lie around watching football on TV? What kind of thanks are we giving?”
“What’s wrong with watching football on TV today?” asked Steve. “After I eat my big Thanksgiving meal, I am so THANKFUL that I can relax and let my stomach do the work.” He patted his stomach with satisfaction.
Kurt joined in. “Yeah, we do have a lot to be thankful for today and every day, but I’m with Steve: being couch potatoes this afternoon really sounds like a winner to me. Besides, what do you ladies suggest that we do, anyway? It’s a holiday, and nothing is open.”
“Oh, you just did yourself in, Kurt,” whispered Clark. “Now you’ve opened the door for the ladies to think up something for us men to do. Well, you’re young, and you haven’t learned these things yet. Let me see if I can get us out of whatever they’re cooking up for us to work on this afternoon.” He called into the kitchen, “Mavis, you ladies did a wonderful job on the meal today. We men ate so much that we have to rest for several hours to get over it!”
Laughter was heard coming from the kitchen, and Bethany called back, “Dad, that’s okay. We know you guys don’t want to go shopping. Well, neither do we, but we do have a fashion show for you.”
Groaning and muttering came from the men. “Why a fashion show, of all things? There’s a good game on TV! Are you gonna make us applaud?” and so on. But you men don’t have to be IN the fashion show, so what’s your beef??
Mama called through the doorway: “The fashion show is Sarge—I made him a hat and coat that matches the coat I gave Mom today. Are you ready for this?” Well, I’m not. I wish I had been quick enough to hide under a bed or something, but I suppose I might as well get this over with. I’m resigned to the fact that I have to walk that plank.
“Sargie, come here, puppy! Mommy wants you to come get a treat!” Mama called. Yeah, right. You just want to parade me around—and I’ll feel like an idiot—not to mention that I’ll look like one, too! Being the obedient super dog that I am, however, I complied with her wishes. As I jumped down off Papa’s lap, he clapped me on the back and said, “C’mon, boy. Let Papa see you in your new threads.” Threads? I’m gonna be wearing more than threads, I’m afraid, but at least Mama has forgotten about those booties. Oh, why did I say that? Usually, when I think of something, she has this uncanny ability to read my mind.
With squeals of delight, the women helped Mama put my ridiculous outfit on me. Bethany did the honor of tying my hat under my chin, and then she gave me a little shove into the kitchen. Mavis followed me with her new jacket, and the men clapped and whistled at us as we marched around the living room. Zoe and Charlie merely looked puzzled, saying nothing.
Well, what is there to say about this outfit, anyway? Unless, of course, you are jealous because you don’t have one for yourself.
After my debut and the clapping and cheering settled down, Daddy added, “We started a Thanksgiving tradition when we married, and Holly and I want it to continue in our family. Let’s go around the room, and each of you tell one thing you are thankful for. Robert, we’ll start with you.”
Papa asked, “You mean I only get to name one thing?” Daddy nodded, and Papa cleared his throat. “I guess the thing I’m most thankful for is my salvation. I was a purty mean ol’ guy before I got saved, but the Lord didn’t give up on me. He stayed the course until I accepted Him. I thank Him for my free gift of salvation.”
Next was Grandma. “Oh my, it’s really hard to think of only one thing, Philip, but I’ll try. Let’s see—I’m thankful for my health. As we get older, we find ourselves less able to do as much as we used to, but Robert and I are still able to do most of what we want to do. So, I’m thankful for my good health.”
Steve, sitting next to Grandma, said, “I’m thankful for Dorothy. She has saved me from a life of laziness!” Everyone knew that Dorothy was a human dynamo, and she kept Steve busy, especially in landscaping their lawn. “Seriously,” Steve continued, “I really am thankful to have such a wonderful wife. I don’t know what I would do without her.” The normally undemonstrative Steve took Dorothy by surprise.
“Well, Steve, that’s a tough act to follow, but I’ll try,” said a subdued Dorothy. “I am so thankful for my family and especially my darling grandchildren. They light up our lives, even though they live in Charlotte and we don’t see them often enough.”
Kurt was next in line, and he was ready with his comment: “I am thankful for my family, too, especially my grandpa, who passed away a year ago. Robert, you kinda remind me of him, in fact. Oh, he didn’t like to cook—he called that ‘women’s work’ according to his generation, but he was always there for me and spent time with me when I was a boy.”
Papa looked surprised, but smiled at Kurt. “I didn’t think there was another man like me on the planet—Ramelle has always said ‘they broke the mold when they made me!’” That brought forth more laughter.
All eyes were on Bethany, seated to Kurt’s right. She hesitated, made a false start with “Ummm—okay, let’s see now,” then just sat there.
Mama, in her big sister role, commented, “Bethany, come on! We’re waiting to hear your part. What are you thankful for?”
Bethany began again. “It’s not that I don’t have anything to be thankful for. It’s just hard to narrow it down to one thing,” she said, looking at Daddy. “I guess one thing is for the love of music, which I got from Papa. He gave me one of his electric guitars—or geetars, as he calls them—and taught me to believe in myself. He told me when he gave it to me that the Lord had put music inside me, but it was up to me to glorify Him with it. So, I am thankful for having music in my life with which to glorify the Lord.” She got up and hugged Papa, who was wiping his eyes.
Clark spoke next. “Like Robert, I am so thankful for my salvation. You know, I was an atheist before I came to know the Lord. I tried praying, but I pretty much felt like nobody was listening, so I quit trying. But God broke through my hard shell of pride and reached down to me. I accepted Christ as my Savior, and now I know I have eternal life. I thank the Lord for not giving up on me.”
Papa said, “That is true for all of us. I was hardheaded, too, and some would say I still am—don’t say a word, Ramelle!” Grandma feigned surprise. “I don’t know where I would have ended up if He hadn’t loved me.”
It was now Mavis’s turn to voice her thanks. “I know this might sound corny, but I am so thankful for each one of you. We all know the Lord, and our family is the only thing on this earth that we can take with us to heaven. Girls,” she said, looking at Mama and Bethany, “you accepted Christ into your hearts at a young age, and your dad and I are so thankful that you did. And you married wonderful husbands who seem more like sons than sons-in-law. Steve and Dorothy, you guys make life so much fun for Clark and me. But most of all, I want to thank Mom and Dad for being the beautiful people that they are.” Her eyes full of unshed tears, Mavis continued: “I thank the Lord daily that you are in our lives.”
Daddy, a quiet man except when he was preaching, I’m told, was next. “I am thankful the Lord called me to preach. When I got saved, my grandpa Nathan, who is a preacher himself, told me he had always prayed for another preacher in the family, and he believed that prayer had been answered in me. At that time, I didn’t understand, but not long afterwards, the Lord did call me to preach. I count it a privilege to share God’s Word with others.”
Last but not least came Mama. She was always ready with a torrent of words. “Philip, I am thankful for having you in my life. And it won’t be long until we’ll have another member joining us.” She patted her rather large stomach. “I know you’ll be a wonderful father to our little baby girl. As Dad says, you and he don’t talk much unless you have something worthwhile to say.” She looked at Mavis and Bethany: “So Mom and B, I guess that means that you and I rarely have anything important to say in all our talking!” Everyone, including Mavis and Bethany, laughed at her comment.
Mama continued: “I know we’re only supposed to say one thing, but I gotta add that I am also thankful for Sarge, too!” And with that, she picked me up and stood in the middle of the room to everyone’s applause. Believe me, Mama, I am a thankful dog, too. These family things are what I live for, because all my favorite people and friends are here with me. I barked, of course, and licked Mama’s face. I placed my paw on her cheek and looked lovingly into her eyes. But Mama, I love you most of all because you gave me my special name after Papa.
The rest of the day was spent in naps, conversation, and various wanderings in and out of the kitchen to nibble on leftovers. All in all, it was a wonderful Thanksgiving. My doggie companions and I had fun running around in the yard for a long time.
(A chapter from I AM SARGE by Mavis Duke Hinton)