“The oak trees were alive with color in the midst of the evergreens. Bright red and yellow leaves catching the sunlight as Daddy and I walked through the brush on this Thanksgiving morning. The smell of the pines was fresh and all around us. We didn’t speak, but this was when I felt most connected to my father. Nature was a bond that united us, the gift that he gave me, and not just in those East Texas woods. He envisioned the whole earth as my territory and set me on a path to discovery. In 1956, this was remarkable for a girl’s father…
I loved our farm place that sat on the Grimes/Montgomery County line. It was 105 acres of rolling pasture and dense timber land three miles out from the small town where we lived. The land was at the edge of the Sam Houston National Forest which marked the beginning of the East Texas piney woods. We had a medium sized pond in those woods – we called it a tank – that was the main source of water for our few Hereford cattle we raised there…
To this day, Thanksgiving remains my favorite holiday. It seems less commercial than the others and struggles to hold its own before the onslaught of merchandising that we call Christmas. The dinners in the fancy restaurants and hotels and cafeterias never measure up to the feasts my grandmothers served their families.
Perhaps, though, it is the love and closeness of those family ties that leave the sights and sounds that last a lifetime.”
This excerpt from the chapter Thanksgiving in the Piney Woods is from my first book Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing. Those of you who follow me will recognize this as the traditional introduction to my annual holiday piece.
Morris family on my grandparents’ front steps
(I am seated on the bottom row in my flannel shirt and corduroy pants, unsmiling, at my mother’s request for some strange reason. My dad is the man with the suit and tie on the right. The date is circa 1956.)
One by one my family dwindled, as all families do, so that only four of the five children in this picture remain. I won’t see any of my first cousins during the holiday season on either side of my family this year nor will I see my sisters Leora, Carmen and Lorna – they are all scattered around Texas while my home is with Pretty in South Carolina.
We will have a strange Thanksgiving due to the Covid pandemic that has returned to our nation with a second wave more vicious than the first devastating attack. More than 250,000 Americans have died in 2020 – unimaginable, and the numbers increase daily as empty chairs at the holiday dinner tables remind families of lives and love lost.
Americans face another insidious attack from a president who refuses to allow the peaceful transition of power following an election he lost by nearly six million votes. Stoking flames of division and mistrust, this would-be king and his subjects flail away at the basic fabric of our democracy while the coronavirus destroys our fellow citizens. Nero fiddles while Rome burns.
We are advised by our medical experts to avoid all travel, be wary of sharing the air with anyone other than immediate folks we live with, only very small gatherings. If we sacrifice now, we should be here for next year’s Thanksgiving, the medicine men tell us. Wear masks, wash hands, keep safe distances, no hugging or other touching. Why is this difficult? Because those are not the norm for us.
This Thanksgiving is an unusual one for sure. but I still believe in the love and closeness of family ties no geographical nor physical distance can sever, family bonds that usher in the sights and sounds which last a lifetime. I am thankful for those memories of my Texas family but oh, how grateful I am for the family Pretty and I have shared for the past twenty years.
Pretty Too, Pretty Also and Baby Ella
Number One Son, Pretty and Baby Ella
Pretty and our granddaughter Ella James
(birthday number one for our girl)
Pretty and I wish all our friends in cyberspace that love and closeness on this special day for giving thanks – plus in this year we add our wishes for your safety and sanity in these extraordinary times. We are thankful for you.