With the holidays fast approaching, the rush of relatives to our homes is unavoidable, some welcome, others less so. After celebrating Thanksgiving for 23 years, my wife and I are coming to my brother Glenn’s house. Last summer he showed us pictures of his extended and renovated kitchen and my wife, taking the opportunity, said, “That’s a beautiful kitchen. Let’s celebrate family Thanksgiving in your homes this year.” And that’s us.
It’s 600 miles from our home in Indiana to my brother’s home in North Carolina, 18 hours round trip, most of which I spend sleeping while my wife, who enjoys driving, is behind the wheel. The woman is a miracle. When our son was in elementary school, we drove straight to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, 850 miles in one day, to see his promotion. She drove and I navigated, reclining in the passenger seat, my head on a pillow, waking up every four hours to fill the tank and empty the bladder. Six hundred miles is a walk in the park for my wife, a walk across the street to visit the neighbors whose relatives are visiting them this Thanksgiving—two grown daughters, two sons-in-law, and possibly a sister and aunt, plus three additional dogs , which will significantly enrich the events of the day. Nothing improves a family dinner quite like good dogs.
While I’m in North Carolina, I’ll be celebrating at my nephew’s wedding on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I haven’t met his bride but have heard good reports. I forego my usual premarital counseling sessions, as I’ve long suspected that it wouldn’t help anyway. Two people who want to get married hardly heed the advice of a pastor. Sometimes when I marry someone I’m not optimistic about the relationship but I feel good about it. I’ll feel even better when they pay for my gas to North Carolina.
When I was a kid, our relatives drove 120 miles north to my parents’ home in Danville, Indiana: two sets of grandparents, various aunts and uncles, and a number of cousins, the adults at the fancy table in our dining room, the kids in the kitchen at a long folding table that my mother called the no-frills table. I ate at the no-frills table until I was 44, when I was promoted to the fancy table after my Aunt Glenda died and a seat was vacated between my mother and Aunt Doris, who prayed so long the gravy overflowed.
If there’s one thing I miss from my childhood, it’s my mother’s Thanksgiving gravy, a magical elixir, the recipe passed down from mother to daughter since the time of Jesus, who would take water at a family wedding and bless it and put it in gravy transformed just like my mother’s. Delicious turkey sauce seasoned with turkey giblets. Not only delicious, but healing. When my grandfather fell off a ladder while roofing his garage in 1965, he was in a coma for almost a week until my grandmother made a dollop of turkey gravy and rubbed it on his lips, which rebooted his brain. His eyes opened, he ate the gravy, a whole bowl, and was good for another 34 years, until his death in 1999, when he opened my sister Chick, now the current keeper of the gravy recipe, to a seat at the fancy table for us from our Lord.
It’s a reason for gratitude when you think of the delicate threads that bind us together, threads that might have snapped but haven’t snapped, and for that and for other things I’m truly grateful.
Philip Gulley is a Quaker pastor and the author of 22 books, including the harmony and hope Series with Sam Gardner.
This article is included in the November/December 2022 issue of The Saturday evening post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor and features from our archives.
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