I decided to do something a bit different this week. Since Thanksgiving is coming soon, I chose THANKFUL for my Appalachian Word of the Week. Please join me as I remember. Perhaps you are THANKFUL for these, too. Or, you can add your THANKFUL memories to the Comments below.
I am THANKFUL that no matter how poor we were, we had a turkey on the table and plenty of food to eat as we celebrated Thanksgiving. I’m also THANKFUL for my family members who gathered with us—even those who were a bit challenging to get along with the rest of the year. On this day, we put it all aside to stuff ourselves with turkey, apple salad, stuffing, pea salad, and, if we were lucky, a dessert. My favorite dish, not because of flavor but because of uniqueness, was the bird’s nest. My mom filled a huge bowl with mashed potatoes, used a large spoon to make an indentation in the top, and filled it with peas. Hence, a bird’s nest.
Dad loved the turkey neck. We tried to leave the room when he got started on it. He’d sit there and eat the meat off the bones by sucking it off. Yuck. Disgusting. How I wish he was still here to suck on my turkey’s neck this year. I’d sit right there with him.
Having extended families with us made me even more THANKFUL. Granny, aunts and uncles, and cousins made the celebration even better. Laughter filled the house. Even the year Aunt Joyce helped clear the table and carried a pile of bowls to the soapy dishwater and dropped them in. Mom noticed chunks of food floating in the water and realized Aunt Joyce had dropped the apple salad leftovers into the water. Disaster! That was one of our favorites. I was not THANKFUL that I couldn’t have those leftovers. But, we laughed and gave her a hard time about it for years.
I am THANKFUL I grew up in a place where character and integrity were more valuable than money. No sense in putting on airs. You were either poor or poorer. What we were rich in was spirit, determination, strength, and faith in God. Doing good wasn’t expected, it was normal. Honesty came naturally. If you needed help, someone always rallied to your aid. And you returned the favor.
I am THANKFUL for the clear springs of water that worked their way through the limestone and bubbled to the surface for perfectly filtered water. Springs flowed into mountain streams that danced down the mountainside and into the creeks below. God spoke to me through those streams of pure water. I could almost hear his words speak to me as the water crashed over rocks and fallen trees and rushed past me, inviting me to rush along with him. I still find refuge in the presence of a fast mountain stream.
|Dad, Mom, and my son|
and the porch swing
I am THANKFUL for my porch swing, where I could while away the hours each day by reading or writing poems. My mountain feist dog swung with me as I dreamed of a future of experiencing the world beyond the mountains or crying to the one creature (my dog) who understood my disappointments, fears, and failures.
That swing served as my therapist in hard times and my motivator to kick-start my creative juices when life looked promising. Everyone should have a porch swing (and a dog) to be THANKFUL for.
|Coal kept us warm|
I’m THANKFUL for coal. It provided heat, even if we only had a pot-bellied stove or later a Stokermatic stove that monitored the temperature and kept it safe. Coal also provided for our cooking when I was younger as Granny or Mom cooked on a coal cook stove. Coal also provided a livelihood for my brother and hundreds of other Appalachian families in my county. If not for coal, many would not have survived until Thanksgiving.
|Loyall High School|
I’m THANKFUL for my school where I had fabulous teachers who opened my world beyond the mountains that surrounded me, teaching me literature, social skills, and thinking skills to expand my options beyond my naïve worldview. They prepared me to step beyond those mountains with confidence to go wherever God led me.
I’m THANKFUL for the garden on the mountain behind our house that provided food year-round as Mom and Dad canned extras for the winter. That garden taught me that hard work reaps benefits past the here and now. It also showed me God’s bounty provides for needs if you put forth the effort to nurture it.
|Loyall Church of Christ|
I'm THANKFUL for my tiny church where I learned the meaning of unconditional love. My church family served as examples of true love and guided me along my path to maturity. The most important day of my life took place among those friends when I accepted Christ as my savior and was baptized as they sang and prayed for me.
|3rd grade class at Loyall|
Most of all, I’m THANKFUL for all the friends who blessed me as a child and who have continued to be dear friends into my long-past-childhood stage in life. Many things have changed for us all. Some are delightful changes (like grandchildren), some heartbreaking. But the constant in our lives is the heritage we shared in Appalachia. We are all blessed.
What are you THANKFUL for this Thanksgiving season? I’d love to hear your stories.