I’ve spent most of my Thanksgivings since 1979 with my in-laws, and most of those in their home. Occasionally, I prepared the Thanksgiving dinner at our house (typically with my father’s help, when he visited) and my in-laws joined us. But most of the time, we had our holiday meal in Marshall, Missouri.
My mother-in-law set a formal dining table, and we carved the turkey and filled the plates at the table. The meal was lengthy. After we ate our fill, the table was cleared, dessert served (plates filled in the kitchen with pie and whipped cream . . . lots of whipped cream), and coffee offered.
At some point came the stories. Grandpa was the consummate story-teller. He’d led an eventful life, most of it spent in the small town of Marshall where he was born, went to school, and worked for almost all his career.
There was the story about walking along the roof line of a neighbor’s house with his brother and assorted other children, throwing paintings from the attic to the ground.
And the time the boys made root beer and stashed the bottles under the bed—their mother was surprised by the explosions a few weeks later.
His recollections of Jim the Wonder Dog.
And when he and his brother “borrowed” some beer off a truck as they drove behind it down the country road.
War stories from Guam during World War II.
And the time his son (my husband) poked him with a cattle prod—that one made him mad every time he told it. “It hurt!” the story ended.
And on and on the stories flowed. I might not have all the details right, but my point is that these stories were as much a part of Thanksgiving (and other holidays) as the food we ate. The stories fed our hearts and souls while the food fed our bodies.
And the stories sustained us for far longer than the turkey and pumpkin pie.
Grandpa has been gone for over four years now. We still tell stories over holiday meals. We tell his stories, and we tell stories about him. And we tell new stories of happenings since he has left us. Our stories will evolve and change over time, but always they will sustain us.
Which are your favorite family stories? Tell them again. And write them down.