Then & Now

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Kathy A. Weckwerth

Thanksgiving is a day that comes around once a year. We make our turkey and salads, we get together with friends and family, and we celebrate. We look back over the year and look over the table at our loved ones. And yet, I often ask myself, why is it a once-a-year celebration? Why do we focus on being thankful one day out of the year?
The plans and preparations have already begun as I look forward to my children coming to the house on Thursday, and joining us at the big green table for a celebration of life … our life.
As the days draw closer, I am getting out my Johnson Brothers dishes, the ones with the brown trim and the lovely covered bridges that I purchased at a thrift store a few years back. Growing up, my best friend’s grandma had them, and I secretly wished that my grandmas owned something so incredibly beautiful, but alas, theirs were the old green dishes that you bought at Red Owl with your saved receipts.
I look out the window and see the wind whipping the leaves, and watch as they spin and my mind whirls about taking a trip down memory lane. I sit down at the big green table now, and I pull back the corner of the tablecloth so I can assist my memory in the stroll.
It was 1974 and I was twelve years old. My mother was an amazing homemaker, while my father, the college professor, loved Thanksgiving almost as much as Christmas.
Our house was abuzz with the preparation of family arriving the next day. As a child, my siblings and I were used to Minnesota weather with many Thanksgivings delivering blizzard-like conditions, but now that we lived in southwest Iowa, we re-adjusted to asking the good Lord to send us snow.  
A cool breeze fluttered through the big sycamore trees and spun rich hues of golds and reds outside the dining room windows, while I looked out across the backyard and felt an excitement rising to see my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
My job was always the same. I was to practice a piano selection, find a Thanksgiving poem to share from the old Ideal books that Mom had on the coffee table, and set the big green table. Mother’s treasured dishes were Franciscan Desert Rose, and I pulled out my great grandmother’s silverware from the hutch and placed a green hob knob goblet at each setting.  
Over the years, I learned to look forward to bringing out the old turkey container stored above the stove. Mom would always fill it with yellow and gold mums and set it in the center of the table.
I remember the deep rich aromas of Thanksgiving. The turkey would be browning in the oven, while mother cooked morotslada, asparagus, mashed potatoes and gravy, and her homemade Parker house rolls. The cousins would come in after driving the nine hours from the cities and sit down, slather on rich creamy butter and devour roll after roll.
Grandma Florence brought her homemade brown sugar fudge and Mom would have pies lined up across the kitchen table. I still remember the deep golden color of the pumpkin pies and the dark delectable aroma of mincemeat.
On this Thanksgiving Day in particular, when I was twelve, I remember the smells of that good food, mixed in with the smell of Grandpa Neil’s rolled cigarettes and his snuff, all wrapped up with the clean smell of lavender that Grandma Thelma always emitted, and the turpentine that seven year old Janis had accidentally spilled on the basement floor while we were playing.
My father prayed a lovely prayer that thanked God for all He’d done and all He would do. He thanked God for our lives, our jobs, our health, our family, and the old green table that housed us.   
At the end of our meal, Uncle Roger let out a hearty laugh, while Uncle Donald groaned that he was so very full and yet asked for another helping of pie. I remember being so thankful that my uncles wanted to take us kids to the park after lunch. The sun was bright and I was so very thankful. I had spent a day with my family, we had gathered around the old green table that stretched out for miles, and everyone enjoyed our time together. I remember the piano selection I played, and I remember the wink of Grandpa and the kisses of my grandmothers.
Another year has passed by to separate the memories and the sweet people with my life of today. My father will not pray this Thursday and my grandpa will not wink. My grandmothers will not hug me and bring their sugary fudge to the event. My uncle will not walk me to the park, but I will never stop missing them.
Today I thank God for what I have had and what I have right now. I am thankful that daughter, Alexis, had our grandson, Noah; that daughter, Chandra, was married; that daughter, Jenessa, is expecting our grandchild and moving to her own home. I am thankful for a lovely old church building and a wonderful family of Weckwerths. I am thankful for Farmer Dean and his love. And I am thankful for memories.
Daddy always said, “Live in the moments that make up your life right now, Kathleen. Then you can look back and know that you really lived.”
From then…to now…and all the in-betweens…Happy Thanksgiving from my old green table to yours.  
 

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