From left, Kieran Wright, Christian Cunningham, Lizzie Galloway and Hazel Mills sing about the joys of Thanksgiving Thursday during rehearsal for a program they would present for their parents the following day at First United Methodist Church Early Learning Center in Columbus. Kieran, 4, is the son of Keegan Wright and Aislin Noltie. Christian's parents are Tyson and Crystal Cunningham. Lizzie is the daughter of Brandt and Martha Galloway. Hazel's parents are Justin Wagner and Keri Mills. Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch
November 17, 2018 9:58:32 PM
As the end of 2018 hurtles toward us, we pause to be thankful. Whatever our circumstances, something in every life warrants gratitude. We asked some of our neighbors around the Golden Triangle to share a Thanksgiving memory that stands out to them, a memory they are grateful for. Hopefully all of us take time to remember more than a few, not just during this week of Thanksgiving, but all year through.
In 1963, when I was eight, my dad carted us off to Geneva, Switzerland, on behalf of the DuPont company. My parents enrolled us at the International School, where the English side was run by the British, who clearly regarded the lot of us as upstart colonials. Well, not only did the Swiss apparently not do Hallowe'en, the British most definitely did not do Thanksgiving. American students were expected to go to school unless we had a note from church. This new form of British oppression stirred my Spirit of '76.
The American Church -- Emmanuel Episcopal -- had Thanksgiving services, and my mother's family had been Anglican from the time of Bede. But she could only get my once-Southern-Baptist dad as 'high church' as the Presbyterians, so we went to the Auditoire Calvin, which was Church of Scotland -- no help there! Of course, God's punchline is I ended up an Episcopal priest who has loved visiting Emmanuel, Geneva.
I wish I remembered better my mother's adventures in producing Swiss Thanksgiving, but I'm sure they involved cornbread.
The Rev. Lynn K. Barker, Ph.D., Starkville
Episcopal priest, historian
We enjoy the tradition of being with family and friends in our hometown of Columbus for holidays. Our travel and vacations were always planned after or before holidays.
Our first Thanksgiving away from Columbus in our entire life was after my mother-in law in January, father-in-law in April and mother in May of 2004, due to long or unexpected illnesses, died. To have no parents in less than four months was, to say the least, an unknown factor.
Leading up to Thanksgiving, we were all wondering how the holidays were going to be. My daughter suggested we have Thanksgiving at her house in Chattanooga, Tennessee. A change in environment for that first year was needed. We found unexpectant joy that year! We are stronger and appreciative because of letting go. Change can be good. Happy Thanksgiving to those who think they will not have one. You might be surprised!
Tavetia Hughes, Columbus
Retired educator, former Young Peoples Artist Series director
It's difficult to narrow down just one special Thanksgiving memory. There are so many! The special times spent at my grandparents' homes with my brothers and cousins are memories I will always cherish. It was always a tradition for us to take turns with the "Wish Book" and make our Christmas lists for our grandparents, parents and Santa after Thanksgiving dinner. Those times I'll never forget.
To focus on one special memory, however, I direct my attention more toward present-day. I had often heard my mother say that one of the things on her "bucket list" was to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. In 2016, I found it the rare case that Mom and I would be the only ones at her home for Thanksgiving dinner. So I seized the opportunity. I made some connections and made reservations, and I took Mom to NYC for Thanksgiving. It was her first time in the City, so I was able to pull out all the stops and share with her as she saw in real life so many landmarks and things she'd seen only in movies. It was magical. And on Thanksgiving Day, we left our hotel early, braved both the cold and the crowds, and enjoyed the 90th Anniversary Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade together -- an item we can both check off our "bucket lists."
Scott Reed, West Point
Business owner, entrepreneur
I'm from San Antonio, Texas, born in the mid-1940s. My mother was from Mexico. My father was born in Texas. I grew up with 13 brothers and sisters, and we loved the old Thanksgiving traditions. We loved it because it was the only time we had turkey, gravy, dressing and our favorite sides, like roasted sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. The odd dish was fried ground beef with raisins, green peppers, onion, garlic and seasonings.
I remember when I started working at 19, it was in a cafeteria that catered Thanksgiving meals to customers. I came home late to mama's kitchen empty and cleaned (after the family gathering) -- the only thing left was the aroma of the meal. One reason there was never anything left was my mom and grandmother never turned anyone away.
I loved Thanksgiving gatherings. I'd get to see my aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. We played Mexican bingo. We used pinto beans to mark the pictures. We played checkers, card games and sang songs in English and Spanish, even though we weren't very talented in music. We'd be introduced to new babies, wives, and someone would always bring their pet, mostly dogs. After the meal, we'd go outside, and kids would play hide and seek, tag and ring around the roses. (The boys didn't like that.)
Today, my family all loves Thanksgiving, even if they do get their meal catered!
Elisa Quintero, Columbus
Columbus Air Force Base Youth Center
Tradition is what comes to mind when I think of Thanksgiving. Since I was about 13 years old, my brother and I have always gotten up early to go deer hunting. A quick stop at my grandmother's house for breakfast was a must on the way home to watch the Macy's Day Parade. The highlight of the day was a huge lunch with family and friends. The meal was only complete with green bean casserole and the real cranberry sauce still shaped like the can (you know, the Ocean Spray kind). The rest of the day was spent watching football and cheering for the dawgs in the Egg Bowl.
I wish I could go and eat breakfast and spend time with my Nanny like I used to after my deer hunts. But now, I enjoy sharing old and new traditions with my wife and two boys. We look forward to building a love for tradition with them in the years to come.
Reid Nevins, Hamilton
Extension Agent II, Lowndes County
It's been 40 years since Mama and Daddy had the idea of yearly family get-togethers. The memories are nested in my heart.
Mama's plan began with a trip to Chicago. Summer after summer, our gatherings expanded from Six Flags over wherever to the Wisconsin Dells to Lake Tahoe, taking the young ones to as many recreational parks as possible. Often, Mama and Daddy would take from their meager savings to assist those who needed it. They encouraged us to get to know and love each other as adults, even though we were spread out all over the country. Our parents knew that the little ones' understanding of family, geography, culture and home would be broadened -- and they'd have fun!
By 2000, Mama and Daddy had died and, without them, few were in the mood for amusement parks. My oldest brother suggested gathering at Thanksgiving. Every year since, the week of Thanksgiving finds the Parrott family on the move -- coast to coast, Mississippi and Louisiana to Hawaii and Mexico -- a week of celebrating, cooking, remembering and honoring parents who taught us the meaning of family. Our parents showed us that no matter where our lives took us, God and family, and goodness were always there.
This week, Parrotts will flock to New Orleans. I can't wait to hug little ones, congratulate new graduates, encourage students at all levels, and give a wink to my white-haired, retired siblings and their spouses. I will celebrate my upcoming 80th birthday by giving Mama's recipes to daughters, nephews and nieces -- cornbread and oyster dressing, pound cake and potato salad. It's their turn. Thanks be to God!
Anita Parrott George, Ph.D., Starkville
Retired educator, Mississippi State University
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.