Most of my childhood Thanksgiving memories can be found on numerous tapes hidden away in a special cabinet of my family home. These said tapes are meticulously labeled, written in purple gel ink, and bear the signature handwriting of whatever was the “cool” way to write the letters Y, A, or G. You didn’t know there were “right” ways? You clearly have never been a middle school girl. Several phases existed, drastically changing from a “curly” Y tail to a very rigid, straight lined Y. Don’t get me started on the many different ways to write out a lower case ‘a.’
Believe it or not–I was always the family videographer. The camcorder was always in my hand; behind the scenes I would practice my TV host voice and facial expression in the bathroom mirror. “Hello. This is Audrey Jackson reporting from the Jackson family home in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.” Most find this surprising considering I’d blush if anyone even looked at me in public. Nevertheless, I would record everything from the basting of the turkey the night before to my cousin and I parading around in my grandmother’s old dress clothes after Thanksgiving dinner had put the rest of the family into a comatose state. Now, our family Thanksgiving gatherings are generally pretty low-key, small affairs. We live away from most of our family, and the fact that Dad is an only child plays into the fact that I have only two cousins–and they live in New Orleans. Our gatherings are small–the amount of food we fix is not. Reflecting back upon my 22 years of Thanksgiving experiences (because I definitely remember those mashed sweet potatoes mother shoved into my mouth at age one), two in particular stand out. Both have become notorious in the Jackson household, and I specifically will never live them down.
Cheese is good. People like cheese. Nothing quite polishes off some savory, southern casserole like melted, yellow cheddar cheese. There is, however, something to be said for having too much of a good thing. For instance, six casseroles with “cheese” in the title, no green vegetables, and a dry, overcooked Turkey. Clearly, communication failed that year. It didn’t improve any when the entire family spent the afternoon in the bathroom. Like I said— too much of a good thing.
The most famous Thanksgiving cooking endeavor, the one that gets people pointing fingers at me and laughing every year, involved Hash-brown casserole. It’s my favorite. I love it. I can’t quite pin-point what it is that makes this simple dish so delicious, but it has always been my favorite. Consequently, at a certain point, it became my responsibility to fix said mouth-watering casserole. No big deal, right? No big deal unless your hair decides to randomly fall out in large amounts during the cooking process. I shutter thinking back to my brother, Drew, pulling me aside at my grandmother’s. “Uh…Audrey. There’s hair all in the Hash-brown casserole.” Fail. Epic, epic fail. I am redeemed only by the fact that during another Thanksgiving dinner my grandmother’s cousin was double dipping in the artichoke dip and then feeding her half-bitten crackers and spit to my brother Tyler. It’s all in the family, right?
Needless to say, Thanksgiving is always a riot around here. We argue about food, we rush to pack the food in the car and drive to Gram’s house, and then we lounge around watching football and retelling the same old funny family stories. But it’s my favorite. It’s not about the food. Or the Black Friday shopping. Or even the fact that we get to see more family. What I love about Thanksgiving is the fact that it is a day in which we can purposefully reflect upon the blessings in our lives. We should be doing it every day. We don’t, however, and the holiday brings it to the forefront of our minds.
If you have never read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, I highly recommend it. In her poetic prose, one finds the suggestion to be thankful for little daily things. Chai lattes. Singing birds. Baby kisses. It can be different for everyone. So, in Voskamp fashion, I reflect upon this Thanksgiving season with a grateful heart. Running errands with my brother. The mischievous smiles of the middle school boys at church. Words. Chamomile tea. God’s ever-lasting love and grace.
Let us give thanks.