"How does mine look?" one little "gobbler" seems to ask another during dress rehearsal Wednesday for the 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds' Thanksgiving program at First United Methodist Church Early Learning Center in Columbus. The petite turkeys, with parents' names in parentheses, are, from left, Blair Kelly (Michael and Kelsie Kelly), Ethan Gray (Jared and Jalynn Gray), Olivia Jones (Bentley and Elizabeth Jones), Carly Rutherford (Carl and Heather Rutherford) and Kimper Vaughan (Andrew Vaughan and Kim Brasfield). Behind them are Madeline Wiygul (Bryant Wiygul and Anna Wiygul), Fields Carson (Chris and Katherine Carson), Abby Davis (Brandon and Noel Davis), Carter Lee (Richard and Haley Lee), Lacey Davis (John and Megan Davis), Ace Flynn (Derek and Jean Flynn), Hazel Mills (Justin Wagner and Keri Mills) and Luke Porter (Randy and Tomekia Porter). Photo by: Jennifer Mosbrucker/Dispatch Staff
Abby Davis, right, helps tie Lacey Davis' bonnet before Wednesday's dress rehearsal for a Thanksgiving event at First United Methodist Church Early Learning Center. The children presented their program Thursday.
Photo by: Jennifer Mosbrucker/Dispatch Staff
Marlee Cate Hudson, daughter of Robby and Anna Hudson, wears a colorful Native American-inspired headdress for dress rehearsal Wednesday.
Photo by: Jennifer Mosbrucker/Dispatch Staff
Joe Ray Underwood
November 23, 2019 10:02:47 PM
Remember that year the turkey caught fire? Or the Thanksgiving sharing an impromptu meal with fellow travelers stranded in an airport? Or, oh yeah, the time the kids got into that box of fireworks after the big family feast? Memories of Thanksgiving. They surface and swirl at this time of year.
In a lifetime of Thanksgivings, we will experience happy ones and sad ones. And when we are old enough, wise enough, we realize each of them is a part of who we have become, part of our personal fabric.
Each November, inviting some of our neighbors to share a thread of their own is illuminating and connective, a small act in weaving our collective community story.
"One room. Six large wooden tables. Thirty-six chairs. Two couches. Two recliners. And nowhere near enough room to fit the 70 to 80 people gathered in the room for Thanksgiving. A rather short woman named Mary Julia, or May Julia, depending on who you are and who you know, at the center of it all. From her recliner, she watches her 10 children play a rather competitive game of family trivia against the two younger generations. Needless to say, her children won. She watches and listens as prayers, laughter, babies crying, and singing all erupt and fill the room. And she smiles and nods though she doesn't say much. She set the tone for a family tradition to be completely surrounded by loved ones. Mrs. May Julia is 90 now, and I, her great-granddaughter, will always carry a thankful heart for this tradition. Not to mention that I now understand from where my competitiveness is derived."
Drummond, of Starkville, is a high school teacher.
Joe Ray Underwood
"As a child, as a young married man, and as a grandfather, Thanksgiving has always been a time for family. It is a time to put away petty differences and enjoy 'catching up' with family members we do not see that often. In my current family, all the grown children, spouses and grandchildren find their way to the Underwood home and Granny Nanny serves a traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey, ham, dressing, vegetables, and two desserts. We overeat, but bear the consequences gladly. We all conspire to keep the family cat off the table and to keep the conversation focused on mutually "loved" topics, such as sports, humor, church activities, and what is happening in the lives of all present. We debate whether or not to put up the Christmas tree, the fate of local sports teams, and plans for the next get-together. We reminisce about the past, marvel at the present, and wonder about the future. The only agenda is to enjoy being with each other and letting everyone know how much we care about them. The family may change and evolve, but Thanksgiving is when we really affirm our thanks for what we have and appreciate the sacrifices that have made the day possible."
Underwood, of Starkville, is a retired university professor.
"Thanksgiving is one of the most enjoyable times of the year to spend time with my family and friends. The one thing I miss is having all my family come together to enjoy delicious food, laughter, old memories and create new memories.
After dealing with an illness that almost ended my life, this year I am focusing on being grateful for the people God has placed in my life. I'm grateful that God has blessed me with a loving mother who is always there for me, and family, friends and church family, all who have been supportive during my illness.
I am grateful most of all that God has smiled on me, even when my health and other mishaps happen in my life. Pastor Rick Warren said, "In happy moments, praise God. In difficult moments, seek God. In quiet moments, worship God. In painful moments, trust God. Every moment, thank God."
Have a blessed Thanksgiving."
Sunivelle, of Columbus, is director of CONTACT Helpline.
"Some of my most memorable Thanksgiving memories had to be when I was toddler. Before I tell that story: I was born and raised in Chicago, but my family is from Sardis and my Grandma and Big Ma made sure we'd come down five times a year and stay almost a week or two weeks at a time. So my grandparents lived in Chicago but have a house in Sardis, so we'd drive down every year for Thanksgiving. On the way down, Grandma would have me practicing my scriptures, what I was thankful for and whatever hymn I had to sing during our family Thanksgiving dinner.
Well, it was one or two o'clock in the morning before we got to the home place, and every time, without fail, after the car got unloaded, I'd hear my grandma holler, 'Narsis, Narrrsisss, come show your Big Ma your scriptures and hymn, and tell her what you're thankful for.' Afterwards, we'd eat what she had cooked for us and go to bed. And Big Ma would wake up at 6 a.m. and start cooking breakfast. I'd wake up with her, and my job was to cut out the biscuits. I spent almost every Thanksgiving doing that 'til I turned 15, when my Big Ma couldn't cook like she used to. Out of my 22 years of living, I've spent three Thanksgivings in Chicago; those (in Sardis) are some of my favorite Thanksgiving memories."
Whigham, of the Longview community, is a horse trainer and dog handler.
"When our children, now 49 and 47 years old, were young, every Thanksgiving Day morning, we opened up the sofa bed in the family room, and they got under it and also built "tents" for their imaginary play while watching the Macy's parade. One year, they both helped me paint wooden pilgrims and Indians that we thereafter used annually as part of our dining room table's centerpiece. We also painted a large turkey, with an open back that I filled with fresh flowers. My husband Mike, our cook, labored long in the kitchen, preparing our big turkey feast. At the table, the kids would invariably complain about one or another dish, saying, 'I would have liked it, if you hadn't put ... in it,' which usually caused a scene at the table. Our son once pronounced that he considered Thanksgiving a minor holiday because it didn't involve presents.
As longtime empty nesters, if we have Thanksgiving at home with only the two of us, Mike still makes a big meal. And I still fully decorate the table with fall bounty."
Thorne, of Starkville, is a community volunteer.
"This is not a typical Thanksgiving favorite memory, or a comical or disastrous experience. Totally different direction.
This Thanksgiving will be unlike any in my past. I have a request. I would like to ask that each person reading this remember my son in prayer, along with every other man and woman who is bravely and confidently serving our great country and will not be seated with their family at the dinner table on Thursday.
My 21-year-old son, Lance Corporal Jason Perkins, currently serves as an Embassy guard in the United States Marine Corps more than 8,000 miles away, in Maputo, Mozambique, Africa. I could not be more proud of him.
For many years we have celebrated Thanksgiving a few days early, or a few days late, as well as on the actual day -- but we were always together, Jason, my daughters Rachel and Victoria, and my mother, Virginia Thomas. Although different, this will still be a special holiday for us.
To know that Jason is being lifted up by many people, we do not know what will top the list of what this father is most thankful for this year. Happy holidays, and God bless America."
Duane Perkins, of Caledonia, asked that a photo of his son, serving in Africa, be used instead of his own.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.