Thanksgiving excerpt from my upcoming book “The Town That Raised Me”

Thanksgiving at my house was usually quiet. My grandparents lived in the mountains and did not travel down for the holiday. Sometimes, my Aunt Jean and Uncle Julian would drive over from Charlotte to have lunch with us, but for the most part, it was just our immediate family. My dad would rise really early, layer on clothes, and play golf with a few of his friends. We stayed at home and watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and helped Mom with lunch. She would always make sure we all had a favorite food on our Thanksgiving plate, and mine was mashed potatoes. I was the girl whose favorite restaurant was The Shelby Café, where I could order two helpings of mashed potatoes without gravy, green beans, and creamed corn. She also fixed this Jell-O cranberry salad with oranges and nuts in it. No one liked it, and we kept asking her why she kept it on the menu. And she said, “It looks pretty on the china.” We would just look blankly at her and continue to push it to the edge of our plate. We would eat in the dining room, and Mom would use her wedding china and silver flatware. It only was used twice a year. Even though it was just us, it was special. My dad would return from a cold game of golf as Mom was taking the turkey out of the oven. We would gather at the table, and after my dad said a prayer, we would eat. After lunch, the football games were on, and Mom and I would get out Christmas decorations.

We usually put a tree up the week after Thanksgiving, so on Thanksgiving Day we put the wreath on the front door, and then checked out the Christmas lights to make sure they all worked. Christmas lights in all colors were lying all across the living room floor. If a string of lights did not work, we would search for the broken light. The more we pulled out of boxes, the more excited I became.

Later in the evening, one Thanksgiving, after I had put on my pajamas, I found my mom curled up on the couch looking through a rather large gray hardback book. I asked her what she was doing, and she said she was looking through a book of poetry. She went on to tell me about one of her favorite poems by Robert Frost. Ever since that night, the poem has had a significance for me on Thanksgiving. She asked me to listen and started reading:

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here.

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer.

To stop without a farmhouse near.

Between the woods and frozen lake.

The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake.

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep.

Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

She asked me what did I think Frost meant by “miles to go before I sleep.” Since it was Thanksgiving, I told her that he must be late getting home for Thanksgiving dinner. I told her the weather was snowy and he must be far from home. She smiled and said, “Maybe it is about the miles left in life before he goes to heaven.” I thought about it. Then she said, “He mentions the promises he has to keep, I think we all have those, don’t you?” She went on, “Your dad has made promises to people here in Shelby and to us, I have made promises to you and your brother and sister. You have made promises to your friends, right?” I said, “I have.” My mom said, “So maybe, he is stopping because the snow is so pretty falling and landing on trees, but he has to move on, because of all he still has to do in his life for all the people he loves.” I looked at my mom looking back at me. I said, “I guess so.” After that night, this poem became my favorite and Robert Frost, a favorite poet.

Robert Frost was also John F. Kennedy’s favorite poet. I was listening to Kennedy’s final speech in Dallas on the anniversary of his death on November 22 just days ago. When Frost died in 1963, President Kennedy spoke a breathtaking eulogy honoring his favorite American poet, my favorite American poet…

“But democratic society — in it, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may. In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation. And the nation which disdains the mission of art invites the fate of Robert Frost’s hired man, the fate of having ‘nothing to look backward to with pride, and nothing to look forward to with hope.’” — John F. Kennedy

I later thought about how I felt waking in the morning to a big snow. How perfect it looked with no footprints. How the trees looked with snow lacing their branches.

I thought about all the people in my family and in my community who made promises to me, and made them come true. At the time, I had no idea the depth and breadth of my own existence. But on that Thanksgiving night, I felt safe and anchored.

So I hope today you feel thankful for the beauty around you. Take the time to feel awe. God is quite an artist. Also in giving thanks, know that your own work is never done. Do not be afraid to make promises to those you love and to those you have never met. Everything we do on our “journey home” matters. As I looked into my mother’s eyes that night, I was thankful she was my mom. Sometimes what we do may seem somewhat insignificant, but in the test of time, it may never be forgotten. I hope your Thanksgiving Day is filled with peace and love.

Numbers 6:24–26 The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

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If life steers you into a dead end road, and you are trying to find your way, skip the GPS, take the road with no traffic. Founder studiO, early morning poet.

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Patty Brown

Patty Brown

If life steers you into a dead end road, and you are trying to find your way, skip the GPS, take the road with no traffic. Founder studiO, early morning poet.

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