I love this time of year! I love the briskness of the air, the falling of the leaves blanketing the ground in their glorious colors (not so much the blowing or raking, however, but I digress), the smell of wood burning coming from people’s chimneys, and the meals that always seem reserved for this time of year. Most of all, I love the gathering of family and friends coming together to celebrate the traditions of this season.
Sadly, as our daughters married and had children of their own, some of our holiday customs that have endured for 40 years changed. From the time our first-born was a toddler, the day after Thanksgiving we have gone to Ashe County to cut down our Christmas tree. After finding the perfect tree, we headed to Greenfield’s restaurant for a huge family-style lunch, replaced by Shatley Springs when Greenfield’s closed.
My father-in-law also introduced a new tradition more than 30 years ago, when he handed each of us a piece of paper and an envelope and had us write down what we were thankful for. For years he collected them, until one year he passed them out so we could reread what we had written over the years. It was heartwarming hearing what each had written. He collected them and then proceeded to hand us paper and an envelope to continue this exercise. Although he passed away 4½ years ago, my husband brings paper and envelopes to hand out at lunch each year. We now have quite a collection.
The difference is that our entire family no longer travels to Ashe County. The long drive for a one-day adventure is just not feasible. The mountain house needs some repairs and, with our seven grandchildren, is not large enough to accommodate all of us. We will go with our Charlotte crew, as long as the tree farms and Shatley Springs are open. I am happy that we will still have the experience with one family, but I will definitely miss seeing everyone around the table, eating, laughing, recalling different moments from years past, and writing their “thankful” notes.
In trying to come up with an idea to keep this “grateful” idea going, even though we may not be together, I saw an idea which I want to pass along to my daughters. Using a real pumpkin—or, if you want to preserve it—a fake pumpkin available at most craft stores, and starting November 1st, we will ask each family member what they are thankful for. It is good to do this when the family is all together, such as at dinner time. Write down their responses and name. Later, using a permanent marker, write the responses on the pumpkin, starting at the top and going around it in a circular pattern. I like adding the person’s name after each answer. Do this every day until Thanksgiving, and then use it as the centerpiece on your Thanksgiving table. If your children join you for Thanksgiving, have each of them bring their pumpkin for the table. It will be so much fun to read all the notes. As everyone will include being grateful for their family and friends, it is probably a good idea to write that first. There also should be no duplicates, as, surely, we have so many blessings it wouldn’t be necessary.
Among the abundance of things I am grateful for, I am so thankful to write this column every month and have readers such as you. May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, overflowing with blessings!