No one to call me Joe

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Tomorrow, Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving Day where we take a moment to express gratitude for the blessings that we have in our lives.  Most gatherings will include being with loved ones – whether they be friends or family, to include great feasts of turkey, pumpkin pie, and cranberry sauce.  Maybe some of us will partake in watching some football (The Dallas Cowboys play every Thanksgiving!), playing games, and others will get into the shopping with mood with checking out the ads for Black Friday.  My opinion: Black Friday should begin on Friday.

What is your favorite Thanksgiving Day tradition?  Maybe you always go to your grandmother’s house.  Or you have a contest to see who gets to pull on the wishbone.  Or you give time-serving the homeless at a local shelter.  Maybe you eat for four days straight and need to go into a food detox.

Thanksgiving can bring back a lot of memories and make new ones.  Just like all holidays, but there is something special about the ones that happen this time of year.  We tend to be a little more kind, a little more patient, a little more forgiving.  Like you, my Thanksgiving was centered around being with family and a great feast prepared by my grandmother.  She would make foods I had never heard of like yams and marshmallows that just screamed warmth and goodness as it settled in my stomach.  She made her whipped cream from scratch using real whipping cream that was also used on her fresh strawberry shortcakes that we might have also had for breakfast earlier in the day.  I loved watching her in the kitchen, always refusing anyone’s help as we went off into the other room to play or watch TV.  We ate in the special dining room where we greeted with more forks than a little kid knows how to use and three glasses.  It was very formal and we dressed the part every year.  As she was waiting for something to go into the oven or come out of the oven, she would stand in the doorway, catching bits and pieces of conversations, and she would have no problem letting out a robust laugh.  It was hard to imagine a laugh that big could come from someone barely weighing 100 pounds.

Once I got married and moved to Nebraska, my family grew and I was christened into my husband’s family, which is much larger than mine, with siblings and cousins topping out at over 100, but even in an old farm-house in Southwest Iowa, love was present there.  Maybe not in a casserole dish of yams, but it was present.  The kids played games with one another outside while the adults talked about whatever needed talking about — usually catching up on other relatives and their doings along with the latest news of the small town. Most of the family lived close enough to head home for the night, but the rest of us would stake claim to one of the upstairs bedrooms where five squeaky mattresses were set up.  The families that small babies were usually given the room with the single bed for a little more privacy.  One time, I believe we had over 80 people in the house….and one bathroom.  To make things easier for Grandma and Grandpa, we all brought food to serve for the Thanksgiving Day meal.  It was the one day during the weekend, that we cooked a big meal.  But when someone brought out a container of sugar cookies topped with Hershey Kisses, you didn’t want to miss out by not taking one or two.  The next time the cookies went around, there might not be any left.

Grandpa had his special rocking chair that was his favorite.  The rest of us could sit in it as long as he wasn’t using it.  This family made Thanksgiving fun and one year, they made pilgrim hats for everyone to wear.  There was always a lot of laughter in that house along with the love and memories.  One Thanksgiving, Grandpa could not remember our two-year old son’s name so he called him, “Joe” as we all sat at a large farm dining room table — you know the ones that seat about 15 per side  — and Josh stood up and told Grandpa, “My name isn’t Joe!”   No one talked back to Grandpa and you could hear the silence at the table as everyone tried to figure out what to say and do next.  None of us were sure just how Grandpa would respond.  But eventually, the silence broke and we all went on to stuffing our faces and being thankful to be together.

Like most families, other obligations take us away from these traditions and we make new ones of our own.  I had nearly forgotten about that Thanksgiving, when, years later, that moment would come back when Josh was nine and we were gathered again for Grandpa’s funeral.  And when I told Josh that Grandpa had died, he simply looked at me and said, “Now no one will call me Joe.” There we many grandchildren and great-grandchildren that spent the weekend together once again, just as we had at many holiday meals.  And that weekend was even made more special because every family member called our son “Joe” to honor his great-grandfather.

So, why tell you all of this?  Because holidays is when we show our best selves.  We smile and laugh.  We create memories and remember old ones.  We miss loved ones and welcome new ones.  We eat way more than our eyes tell us we can.

So as many of us have many things to be thankful for, I hope we remember to look a little outside of our own home for blessings too.  Let us be thankful for the employees working on “Pre-Black Friday” to keep us safe and well.  Let us be thankful for the service men and women who are away from their own families.  Let us be thankful for the comradeship between friends and family as loved is not something we see, but something we feel.  Let us be thankful for everything we have and more…

MORE?  If I am thankful for everything I have, what else is there?

Take time to be thankful for all the things that haven’t happened yet…all the things you are yet to be…all the things that are in your future.  Be thankful for your strength when you must bury a loved one.  Be thankful for an extra paycheck.  Be thankful that you choose to help others.  Be thankful that you are loved.  Be thankful for your life.  All of it.  The messy parts, the really gooey parts, and of course, the parts that make you who you are.  Because isn’t that what a Thanksgiving table is — a bunch of dishes that make up the meal?  Just like life — it just wouldn’t be the same if one part was missing.

Slow down.  Rest.  Play games. Nap. Step away from work. Make new traditions. Call loved ones. Eat too much.  Laugh a ton more.

Be grateful for every moment…every holiday…every little thing.  Love it when someone calls you “Joe.”

Michelle A. Homme 2014 ©


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