“Camile, Melanie, Rachel, Erica, Vernon, Brittany, come downstairs and help get this house ready!” my mom shouted.
The six of us begrudgingly strolled down the stairs knowing that, for the remainder of Wednesday evening, we would have to help clean the house in preparation for the Thanksgiving feast.
We dusted. We mopped. We vacuumed. We cleaned the mirrors. We emptied all of the garbage cans. The list was endless. The entire time we complained that we felt like modern day slaves. We even threatened to call DCFS. Of course, like any good parent, she encouraged us to go ahead and call.
Thanksgiving morning always entailed getting dressed in our Sunday best and going to church to hear my dad deliver the Thanksgiving message. We would have preferred to sleep late, but we were the preacher’s kids-so there was no Thanksgiving respite for us.
Once we returned from church, my mom would quickly put the finishing touches on the meal. The smell of homemade rolls, ham, turkey, dressing and my mom’s famous peach cobbler wafted through the air as we set the table and did last minute chores. Of course some of us searched for ways to mysteriously disappear until dinner was ready. It was always the perfect time to take a nap…beneath the basement stairs.
Many years my parents invited members of our church to dinner. Sometimes they were old family friends but oftentimes they were new members who were homeless and/or single with no families of their own. As children we resented many of these guests because we didn’t really know them. Indeed, dinner topics became more formal, and leftovers were not as plentiful: My mom always encouraged guests to take “to-go” plates. Some guests came with Tupperware for this express purpose while others packed up enough food to feed their families for the remainder of the year. Worse yet, more guests meant more dishes. Dishes that we had to do! I can still picture the mounds of dishes that had to be hand-washed. I honestly believe it was my mom’s goal to use EVERY single “good” dish in the house during Thanksgiving dinner. And, to make matters worse, she was not a fan of the dishwasher.
Now that I am older, I appreciate my parents for opening our home to countless men and women. I appreciate the extra care and attention they took to make sure our home was inviting. Their hospitality and generosity taught us valuable lessons about kindness and the importance of sharing what we have with others.
This year in keeping with the tradition of giving to others, I donated food to Maxwell’s school to help feed another family. I also purchased a few gifts, while at the store with Max, to give to children at our local shelter. As parents it is important that we not only tell our children how they should treat others, but that we demonstrate it. Words without action do not resonate as clearly with children. So this year I am thankful for parents who were committed to showing my siblings and I what Thanksgiving really means.
What holiday traditions do you and your family share? Have you found ways to share with others? If so, how?