Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Day 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 in Lafayette, Indiana—in the heartland of America. Endearing, tiring, heartwarming, exhausting, uplifting, frustrating, inspi riing. In other words, a typical Thanksgiving.

The food was fabulous, from the triple mushroom/Brie soup to the brined turkey to the fruit and nut bread pudding and pecan pie cake.

The variety in our assemblage was wonderful: our four children and three grandchildren, Gina’s mom and stepdad, Gina’s sister Gennifer and her husband Tom and three children as well as Tom’s parents from California. SuSu and Alex, Purdue students from Penang, Malaysia. Foo, a Malaysian student most recently from Texas. Adelina, a Malaysian student at the University of Colorado, with whose parents we stayed in Malaysia last summer. Yves, from Rwanda, a graduate student at Purdue.

The seventeen adults were seated at long tables that were beautifully decorated. Conversation flowed smoothly as we got better acquainted. The Malaysians were in for the adventure of trying all the novel American dishes.

We exemplified teamwork throughout the day—cooking, serving, unstopping the kitchen sink, cleaning up the dishes, putting away tables and chairs, playing games, caring for the two babies, watching the older children perform.

Two of the most inspiring parts were before we began the Thanksgiving meal when Josh read from a Pilgrim diary and led a Thanksgiving prayer. Then later in the evening, we assembled in the living room and Josh read to us from Psalm 100, which combines thanksgiving and singing. Then we sang.

Singing is a wonderful tradition that I treasure. We sang both old and new songs, and were most fascinated when Grant, age 8, requested “Nothing But the Blood of Jesus.” I’m delighted that the youngsters are learning and loving the old hymns as well as the new praise songs and children’s songs.

We closed with a prayer of Thanksgiving in which everyone from four to sixty-six participated. Going around the circle as we each voiced our thanksgiving for specific blessings was a tearful experience for me. Especially touching was Tom’s dad’s appreciation for the knowledge that traditional family values are alive and well in America, and that he can testify to that in California.

We all felt warm and loved and glad we could share with lonely students far from home. Once again I was reminded of why this is my favorite holiday.

Monday, November 15, 2010

And What Happened to November?

It’s the middle of November and I just tore off the October page on my desk pad calendar. The weather this month so far has been more October-like than I ever remember. It’s reminded me of one of the childhood poems a teacher had us memorize, “October’s Bright Blue Weather,” by Helen Hunt Jackson. I still remember the first verse,
O suns and skies and clouds of June,
And flowers of June together,
Ye cannot rival for one hour
October’s bright blue weather.
The entire poem is at . In the Smokies last month I saw purple gentians and wished I knew the verse about gentians.

What has happened to November? And because the rest of the month is so scheduled, I feel like November is already gone. But the weather is finally colder and more November-like. My favorite November poem is “I Love the Fall” by Dixie Willson. I used to help my third-graders write it in their laborious cursive writing and then we would memorize it together. A wonderful exercise, with simple but memorable words. It begins:
I like the fall
The mist and all
I like the night owl’s lonely call
And wailing sound
Of wind around
You can read the whole poem at . If you read it aloud, be sure to draw out the “waaail-ing” sound and make a wind noise as my third-graders did.

One of the advantages I most enjoy about the internet is that you can know a snippet of a poem and magically find the entire piece right before your eyes. My mother and her brother-in-law my Uncle Gilliam Hawkins both had vast storehouses of poetry in their memories, but as they aged they would forget some of it. Mother would call him and say the part she knew, and he almost always could tell her the whole poem. That has to be even more fun than finding it online. I can still see Mother with the phone in her hand, nodding as she hears him give the rest of the poem. The internet may supply the words, but it will never replace the warmth of those people connections.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Pumpkin Project

Family traditions are often both wonderful and dreadful. (No dreadful ones in this post--maybe later.) Steve and I discovered early in parenthood that anything we did two years in a row was fun, but anything we did three years in a row was a tradition not to be messed with.

Carving pumpkins, for example. That was easy when the kids were growing up. Buy a pumpkin, carve it in the kitchen, set it on the porch with a candle inside. Easy tradition. But then, due to people’s schedules, we often found ourselves in the Smokies on Halloween, and that required that the pumpkin be carved there. (The Smokies in October is another tradition that no one will alter, even though it’s an 8-hour drive for Josh’s family.)

That works well, as a rule. But this year everything got a little hectic. We hiked all day Friday, the first day, ate dinner late, and didn’t feel like starting the Pumpkin Project at that point. The routine since grandchildren arrived is that Kinley designs a face on paper, Kelsey draws it on the pumpkin, and Steve carves it. So all hands have to be available and the little ones, having arrived at 1:30 a.m., were desperate for bed.

Then we were gone to Marcus’s memorial service on Saturday, missing from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., so all hands were not on deck that day. On Sunday, we hiked and picnicked after church, then rushed back for the children to get in costume, for that was actually Halloween. We walked the Parkway in Gatlinburg, where stores were generous in their treats, and surely most of Sevier County was there as well as out-of-town visitors. It was crazy. Stephen even videoed part of it and posted it on Facebook.

Knox, as Woody from “Toy Story” got quite a bit of attention and would strike a pose at a moment’s notice.
Kinley, dressed as a Sri Lankan princess, was beautiful, but didn’t get the raves she might have received in her own neighborhood. (We tried to get her to say she was an Indian princess, but she protested that she had bought this outfit in Sri Lanka and it wouldn’t be accurate to say she was Indian.)

But the hit of the evening was Finn, dressed as a box of popcorn.
His other grandmother and his mother, Kelsey, had made this adorable outfit and they were stopped constantly as people wanted to take pictures.

We finally had our dinner and returned to the hotel—and to the pumpkin carving. So late on Halloween, the pumpkin finally was designed and carved. We put it on the balcony, as usual, and admired its glow. But its glow was nothing compared to ours as we wound up our lovely traditional weekend together.