Tuesday, November 20, 2018

J P Remembers Thankgiving

                                                Remembering Thanksgiving

What I remember most about Thanksgiving is the drive. I remember my mom getting up early to pack to the car and make egg sandwiches. I remember leaving our house in the pale, cold morning light with air cold enough I could see my breath. I remember the chill of the vinyl bench seat of our station wagon and how difficult it was to get comfortable in that old car. I remember first fighting with my brother for the privilege of sitting in the front seat, then, as we got older, fighting with him for complete control of the backseat.

From our home in Leesville to my grandparents’ house in Arkansas, we were in for a least an eight-hour haul, and that’s if we didn’t stop to visit my father or his siblings along the way. The drive included a mandatory bathroom stop at the McDonald’s in Mansfield, a stop for gas in Hope, Arkansas, and a couple of other pee breaks along the way. We always filled up with gas before getting off the interstate onto the rural highway to Memaw and Poppy’s house. I remember wishing we could stop in and see Mr. Cryer at his little convenience store/gas station in Springfield as we passed through, but it was always too late at night for that. But I knew I could always con my grandfather into taking me down there to say hi and that Mr. Cryer (or “Chicken” as everyone called him) would always remember me. What I remember most of the drive is how long it used to take us to get to our destination and how the return trip seemed to go so much faster.

I don’t have any memories of a Norman Rockwell family gathering at Thanksgiving.                    Often, it was a small gathering with little pomp and no circumstance. My grandmother didn’t cook very well, and my aunt and uncles were always off doing something else in another state or country. At the time I never understood why they didn’t come home more often, but as I’ve grown and had opportunity to see my family through adult eyes, I now understand. There was a sadness in the homecoming. My grandmother began to wither away slowly with each successive stroke so that it became hard to want to make the trip just to witness her deterioration. Then finally, she was no longer there to bake biscuits and make chocolate gravy on the cold November mornings. That’s when the thankfulness in my family seemed to die.

            For years, I lamented the solemnity of my family’s Thanksgivings. When I got to college, I just avoided it altogether and refused to come home. In fact I just began avoiding my family. It was hard to go home when all the old hurts and haunts were still there. I couldn’t pretend things were like they used to be. It wasn’t the same. Others in my family felt it, too. No one wanted to drive in to spend a couple of days of wallowing in depression.

Then a funny thing happened when I was living on my own in San Antonio a few years ago. I figured out I couldn’t bring the dead back. I thought about it and concluded it didn’t really matter whether or not I had a big, shiny turkey I baked in the middle of a table surrounded by twenty guests. I also finally decided my ever-shrinking family would never be in the same place at the same time. So with only my mother and step-father willing or able to travel to celebrate with me, I made reservations for three at the Westin La Cantera Hotel and Resort on the edge of the Texas Hill Country. We feasted like kings on baked and fried turkey, prime rib, glazed ham, 30 different types of dressings and other side dishes, and an entire banquet table full of pumpkin, cherry, and other kinds of pie. I remember there were even pilgrims and Indians walking around. Everyone wore their smiles along with their “Sunday best.” I remember all of us chatting with the strangers around us then walking outside to the veranda to take in the view.

But I remember the drive home most of all. I remember counting my blessings and thanking God for the family I had left. I remember thanking Him for the cold after such a hot south Texas summer. I remember giving thanks for what I had and not grieving over what I did not. But mostly, I remember how much longer the trip to the hotel took than the trip home.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

A child of God

You are a child of God. He says that you are wondrously made. 
Do you spend so much of your time with activities that you no 
longer here that small voice talking to you?

           A child has no problem being still and listening to God. 

Have you seen a child squat down and watch a beetle make 
its’ way through the dust?  Can you find a quiet spot in your 
day to listen to your inner self?
You can do a few things to change the way you look on the outside. 
Sit up straight, lift your head up, and pretend you like yourself
What? I don’t like me. How can you say that? If you liked you, 
you would take care of yourself. When I looked in that mirror, 
I discovered that I didn’t like what I saw. Who could that person be?
 Was it really me? Then one day I had an epiphany, I didn’t love me because when you love something you take care of it. I certainly had not taken care of that reflection in the mirror.

The more you rush the less time you have to listen to that small voice inside. Some say it’s a conscience trying to tell you something. If we stay real busy, then, we don’t have to listen. What if it’s God trying to give you directions for a happy life?  Always rushing, what’s wrong with just being? Are you rushing around here and there doing activities that fills your time? 
Are they things you enjoy?