Thanksgiving’s just around the corner, a week to go and Boggan matriarch that I claim to be, we were having the annual family dinner at my house. Help was needed; I’m usually good to go for a lot of the cooking, but a few peas short of a casserole when it comes to decorating. I cannot even tidy up a bed without lumps in the sheets or tie a shoe-lace without making a knot, much less adorn a house for a family celebration. In a low-pitched, trembling voice I called granddaughter, Michelle Ayers. Michelle inherited her decorating talent from her mother, Pat. Busy though she was, she graciously worked me into her schedule.
And, now a few days later, tables set, house and doors decked for the occasion, I took a break from crumbling muffins from the country club into Aunt Jemima’s cornbread dressing mix. With dogs, Roo and Petey Poo at my feet I struck a match and sank onto the den sofa. I stretched back in front of the fireplace and admired what Michelle had created.
Our old wood-burning fireplace had given way to a gas one, no snap, crackle and pop, but as I watched gold and amber flames take life, I felt that loneliness can be a loud noise.
With that, I slid into the past, remembering another Thanksgiving, 17 years ago.
My daughter, Pat, had been fighting cancer but she came over to help. “Mama,” she said as she put the finishing touches on our turkey centerpiece, “I won’t be here to decorate for you anymore.”
Choking down tears, denying what she was telling me, I shook my head.
The day after Thanksgiving, my daughter was admitted to the hospital, a short time later she was put in intensive care. She stayed there off and on for many weeks until she died on February 19th.
Watching the amber and gold flames drift, flick and dance, my mind takes a walk through old memories. I see familiar faces and once again say goodbye to my two daughters, Linda and Pat, granddaughter Brent, and most recently that dear man I was married to. Grief and longing can be almost overwhelming, but something I read recently, just a line, really touched me. “God continues to call, to convict, and to ask that we remember, sometimes with grief, but always with gratitude.”
And oh, how much I have to be thankful for.
“Precious memories, how they linger,
How they satisfy my soul.”
While I sat in reverie, I received several text messages and clicked them open. Two family members are each bringing two guests. Another one has added an exchange student.
How many people are coming? Tables are set for anywhere from 24 to 30 people.
Then another message. Three others have changed their minds and are going to the Ole Miss/State game. They may make it, and they may not.
Petey Poo barks. I return to the moment. He wants attention. “Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go,” I say. I bend over and stroke each dog.
Not quite ready to let go of memories, once again, I think back to times past. Holidays don’t always follow what we think they should. For our family, it’s often expect the unexpected.
One year, someone left the freezer door open in our laundry room. “No ice,” someone calls from the kitchen. The icemaker has quit. The garbage disposal grinds - and stops. It’s clogged. Gravy boils over and spills on the stove top. The smoke alarm goes off.
A few years later, the adults visited in the den and living room, children outside playing. Food finally ready, everyone was called in. When we were all in place, son Bill said a prayer. As soon as his “Amen” rang out, the children dashed back outside while the big people began fixing plates. Suddenly the front door flew open, and we heard screaming. Six-year-old Peyton Boggan had fallen out of a tree in our front yard and cut her head on a brick. Thanksgiving was over for Peyton, her mother, father, and brother Christian. They left for the hospital and spent the rest of the day in the ER. Peyton had six stitches put in her forehead, and had to have a CAT scan done because of possible internal chest injuries. Peyton’s scan showed no evidence of a fractured rib and she has ended up with no scars from her face stitches.
Roo Roo slides her cold nose against my leg. It’s almost dark, time to do our short, afternoon walk.
“Roo Roo, I’ve said it before, and it still runs true.” Snapping the leash onto the dog’s collar, I bend over, raise her chin and look into her eyes. “Thanksgiving at our house makes the Ole Miss /State game look like a prayer meeting.
(November 22 - 11:44 p.m.) Thanksgiving has come and gone, the crowd has left, the game is over.
Hotty Toddy, gosh a mighty,
Who in the heck are we? Hey?
Flim, flam, bim bam
Ole Miss, by darn.”
And, that’s the way I said those words back when I was in school, and the way I still say them now.
As a former Ole Miss cheerleader, along with two Jackson gentlemen who I feel most of you will remember, Faser Triplett, and Brad Dye, I just have to say, “Hoddy Totty, y’all.”