Donned in red bib aprons, we caught up on gossip, discussed pressing personal issues, and relived lifelong memories. Before we finished, Martha asked me to remove the “innards” from the turkey — a job that makes her squeamish. I laughed and stuck my hand into the belly of the bird.
“You are so brave!” Martha exclaimed.
I reminded her of her own bravery years ago when we bought a farm together on Temple Road. We had a problem with unwelcome varmints and had to set traps in the kitchen. Now, if there is one thing that I’m petrified of it is “you know whaties” (a.k.a. mice). I didn’t go anywhere near the area for days, and when Martha discovered a captured rodent I hid behind the door in the other room, cheering her on as she bravely disposed of the creature — trap and all. To me, that was bravery at its best.
This year, Squeaky, the farm manager, gave me a lesson on driving the Ford tractor for the afternoon hay ride and skeet shoot. As I told Squeaky, “I can drive a tractor, but tractors are a lot like men. Even though they’re basically the same, each comes with its unique quirks.” I practiced in the pasture acclimating myself to the tractor’s quirks.
Afterwards, I went to see Mike Williamson who gave me unlimited access to his turnip green patches and shared gorgeous fresh lemons from his lemon bush. Back home, I washed and cooked the greens, made giblet gravy, sweet tea, and a cake to contribute to the Thanksgiving feast.
Over the years, our celebration has become a reunion of cousins and friends. As our parents’ generation diminished in number, we find ourselves taking on adult roles and responsibilities — and find it amusing that we are now the oldest generation! It’s fun to experience our personalities as we work side by side in the kitchen and try to figure out who should be giving the orders and who should simply follow orders. Like all families, we have some mighty strong personalities, but over the course of the past few years, we have found our places in the pecking order.
This year was special because it was our largest gathering of cousins and some of us are having major health issues. In fact, I think we counted five knee replacements, one kidney transplant, a pacemaker, a need for hearing aids and a plethora of other aging issues. How did we get to be this old in the blink of an eye?
Late in the afternoon, I bid goodbye to this group and headed to Heard County to be with my extended family at the Davis Farm. Our tradition includes a star-canopied hay ride through the pastures. We sing our favorites, including “God Bless America,” “Oh Suzanna!” and “Silent Night.” We stop at the huge bonfire and roast marshmallows for s’mores as this group of cousins and friends catch up with each other. We then form a circle and each of us (usually 25-40 of all ages) share our Thanksgiving gratitude. We end by joining hands and singing “Bless Be the Tie That Binds. “
I think for me it is the drive home from that two-day experience that really marks the beginning of the holiday. I navigate down the dirt road to Highway 100, pass farm houses and mobile homes adorned with Christmas lights on Welcome All Road, look with amazement at the full parking lot at Walmart, and finally arrive home. I build a fire, snuggle on the sofa and reflect on how much my families have changed — how loss is inevitable, but how the announcement of a new engagement or a baby-on-the-way, and the love of cousins ensures that traditions will continue. I’m grateful for that.
This season, I invite you to share with me your own Christmas memories. I will do my best to weave those into this column so that we can glimpse into other holiday traditions of West Georgia.
And the countdown continues ...
Garrett, a Carroll County resident, writes a weekly column for the Times-Georgian. Send your stories to DrShirl@ShirleyGarrett.com or leave her a message at 770-836-1926 and she’ll return your call.