This is the time of year when people begin to announce what they are thankful for and how they are blessed with the celebration of Thanksgiving.
Yes, I can spend my column dedicated to word after word of how I am blessed to have a happy, healthy family. I am blessed to be able to work every day in the newspaper business, my true calling. I am blessed to have a handful of loyal friends who are much like an extended family. I am blessed to live and work in a community that I truly cherish with its rich history and wonderful people.
But, let’s get down to a true blessing. I am thankful to have a wild, often dysfunctional, but loving family that has created some lasting memories over the Thanksgiving holidays.
I am talking about the family who raised me. The family you can’t create on your own. The folks who you had no choice really but to have the same blood running through your veins.
Growing up, I had visions of what Thanksgiving should be in a home. I pictured those Hallmark moments with family members gathered around a table, feasting on fellowship and harmony.
But my family, the Jackson family, had no time for Hallmark moments.
Our Thanksgivings were chaotic, wild. Someone almost always got injured.
A feud from two generations back might spark again.
Arguments would ensue with my grandmother threatening to write somebody out of her will.
But we were as thick as thieves, and we always ended the day with a hug and smile…and maybe a grunt or two.
Maw Maw began cooking for Thanksgiving before the sun even came up. From turkey and ham to snap beans to dressing to cranberry sauce to pies and cakes…she had it covered.
And although she always vowed that “she wasn’t doing this next year,” the food was prepared literally by 9 a.m.
Yes, 9 a.m.
And then she would hover by the kitchen screen door, looking to see what family member was about to pull up. Unlike Maw Maw, my family did not see the need to arrive for Thanksgiving lunch at 6 a.m.
By 10 a.m., she was frustrated.
“Well, I guess I ain’t nobody coming,” she said, already getting the Tupperware out. “I’m not doing this next year.”
People would eventually show up at the appropriate time, only to be greeted by a scowl from my Maw Maw. Perfect start…
My Aunt Sonya would always bring a cake that looked like something a cat hacked up. I love her, but her cakes…presentation was not her specialty. A joke under one’s breath would lead to an argument. And before you could slice a can of cranberry jelly, Aunt Sonya was lighting a cigarette and tying up with Maw Maw over the mashed potatoes.
My Paw Paw, Uncle Herbert, Momma and I would remain in the living room as the war ensued inside the kitchen. One time, the only thing that stopped their feuding was when I got choked on an olive. And as the half-eaten olive came flying out of my throat onto the red velvet cake, it brought some level of peace with it as the argument ended.
By the time we sat down to eat, Aunt Sonya had smoked a pack of cigarettes. Paw Paw had snuck into a hidden bottle of gin, telling the good Lord that “he was ready.” Uncle Herbert was written out of the will. And Momma was picking olives out of her hair after saving my life.
Crazy, I know…but as I would look around that table to chaos, I grinned. This was my family, and I loved them with all my heart.
We were a mess, but we were loyal to one another. We might fight with each other, but if anybody else said or did something to us, we became a pack. We were always in each other corners.
Sure, it would have been nice to have that Hallmark moment at Thanksgiving. But where is the fun in that?
Sadly, some of those family members are no longer with us. And now we gather around the table with a few empty seats. But it doesn’t take long before we recall those moments that made us a family.
My own Momma now vows that “she’s not doing this next year.” I am not sure if I am included back in the will technically. And there is always a jar of olives nearby to diffuse any situation in case of an emergency.