I’ve been admiring friends’ pictures on Facebook of their lovely Christmas trees, already lighted and decorated for the season, but you won’t find any of that in our house yet. Here’s why…
Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday for just about as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, Thanksgiving meant driving “over the rivers and through the woods” to visit grandmothers, aunts, uncles and cousins in Chardon, Ohio, where there was almost always snow on the ground that time of year. Since there was no Christmas present hoopla after our feast, all of us cousins would pile on winter coats, mittens, hats & boots, and race out into the cold air for an afternoon of sledding, ice skating on Grandma’s pond, and the quintessential snowball fights. So many of my favorite family memories took root on those crisp, cold Thanksgiving afternoons.
As my sisters and I grew older and our family sometimes stayed at home for Thanksgiving, my dad assigned himself the role of historian, each year teaching us another interesting fact or story about how God was ever-present in the lives of the Pilgrims during their first few years in the New World. One year he put 5 kernels of corn on our plates, and told about how that small ration of food each day is what kept the Pilgrims alive during the winter. We should have appreciated Dad’s history lessons, but I remember those speeches being interminably long as we sat at the table with Mom’s best china and a perfectly roasted turkey in front of us. The funny thing is, though, since I’ve been hosting Thanksgiving feasts at our home in Peru, I’ve given many of those same speeches, including the 5 kernels of corn! But I do try to keep the history lesson to 5 minutes or less.
I remember the Thanksgiving Day that my mom hosted a whole crew of my Mexican ESL students… that was an interesting cross-cultural experience for all of us! Cross-cultural experiences became the norm for me when I moved to Peru, but I still wasn’t prepared for the year that I cooked my first Thanksgiving turkey… I reached my hand into the frozen bird to pull out the bag of giblets, and I also got the feet, neck and head!
My favorite Thanksgiving memory happened early in the morning in 2005. The phone rang just as I was cramming a fistful of stuffing into a huge bird that feed a large crowd of missionary colleagues later in the day. The voice on the line told me about a three week old baby who was stranded in the hospital, needing a family to bring him home.
This is a long and beautiful story that I’ll save for another day, but the bottom line is that the baby became our oldest son, and he thrives on hearing us re-tell his Thanksgiving story each year. I think he has followed in my footsteps of making Thanksgiving his favorite holiday.
So if you visit our house here in Peru anytime during the month of November, you’ll see plenty of fall decorations, turkeys and leaves of every color. In a place where there is no autumn, we make it happen inside, and we live this holiday to the fullest!
Thank you, God, for so many beautiful Thanksgiving memories.