I loved Thanksgiving as a child. Thanksgiving never seemed to receive much attention within my immediate family, but my grandmother lived right down the street and most years, she and Grandaddy would head off to the Thanksgiving reunion at her aunt's house in Tennessee. They were happy to let me tag along.
The reunion was held at Aunt Boo-Boo's farmhouse (Aunt Boo-Boo did have a real name; I think it was Mary Ruth... I have no idea why everyone called her Boo-Boo) and she lived out in the boondocks (that's way out in the country) in a fabulous old farmhouse that, looking back, was probably a homeowner's nightmare. I thought it was enchanting, and since fall usually came late to that part of Tennessee, the gold and crimson of the surrounding woods added to the magic. The farmhouse was a maze of rooms created from additions to the house over the years. There was a wide front porch, where the men might sit if the weather was warm, which led into the front hallway. An old-fashioned, drafty formal parlor that hardly anyone used was on one side of the hall, and the dining room, where the aunts filled the enormous table with harvest bounty, was on the other. Aunt Boo-Boo had a huge country kitchen, where all the women could be found in various stages of food preparation, and if you went straight on back, you could find all the men, if it was cold, sitting in the "den", in front of the fireplace. The house was full of interesting corners and dark hiding places. The upstairs had mysterious hallways and fascinating rooms with dormer windows, but since I wasn't supposed to go upstairs, I was never able to explore to my satisfaction.
Outside, a creek ran alongside the lane in front of the house. If you were daring, you could cross the creek by carefully walking across on an old log. This allowed you access to "the mountain"- at least, it seemed like a mountain to a child. I'm sure it must have just been a large hill, but since I was too scared of falling into the cold creek to cross the log, I never made it to the foot of the mountain, much less to the top. In front of the house, a wooden footbridge spanned the creek, allowing you to get from one side of the lane to the other. When I was eight, my Buster Brown oxford shoe got stuck in between one of the slats and fell into the creek and the men had to come and fish it out again. (I explained to my Gran that the real tennis shoes, which I wanted desperately, would never get stuck in the slats. She was not impressed with my argument.)
After dinner ("dinner" is the southern way of saying "lunch", as opposed to "supper", which northerners call "dinner") all the cousins would go out onto the back lawn in front of the barn and play football for the rest of the afternoon. The men would continue to sit in front of the fire and the women would again convene in the kitchen to clean. I thought it was everything Thanksgiving was supposed to be.
As I got older, things changed. Aunt Boo-Boo got too old to continue hosting the reunion, and my grandparents became unable to make the trip. As the family continued to expand, the aunts began having their own celebrations and cousins moved away and went off to college. Eventually, the bridge to the creek was paved over with a modern concrete bridge, and the farmhouse was sold. But Aunt Boo-Boo, my Grandparents and all my extended family created beautiful threads of memories for me, threads which form a tapestry connecting past and future generations. This Thanksgiving, I will weave new threads into that tapestry, new memories which will include my husband's family and our own children.
For Thanksgiving celebrations both past and future, for the family members who are no longer with us, and for the family whose presence I will enjoy this year... I am thankful.