For these memories I am thankfulBy JEFF NORTH,
Almost everyone counts their blessings this time of year. We are thankful for our families, our jobs, our health, and on and on and on. Of course, isn’t this what Thanksgiving is all about? In every newspaper, on television, and on social media, there will be countless accounts of what everyone is most thankful for. It almost becomes boring, it is so redundant. Don’t get me wrong, for I too am thankful for these same things.
With that said though, this time of year stirs me to reflect on what I am most thankful for, and that is for the wonderful memories that I will carry with me from now on. The jobs, homes, cars, and other material items will fade away. The “stuff” we have is really, just fluff, with no substance. A true giving of thanks can be much more than the shallow perception we sometimes have. See if what I share resonates with you.
The Friday before Thanksgiving has always been an exciting time for me. When I was in grade school, I couldn’t stay focused on the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic after lunch. The bell couldn’t ring fast enough, for on this day I wouldn’t ride the bus home. I can still see my dad pulling up to the side walk at our quaint grammar school to pick me up on this special day. The car was packed with my hunting clothes, my little carbine, and enough food to feed a small army. Of course, his 30.06 was nestled on the back seat as well. We were on our way to deer camp. There is no way to convey in words the anticipation of what the next week would hold. Even today, my stomach is full of jumping beans when that Friday arrives. We shared that ride together for decades. For these memories, I am thankful.
As a 10-year old, I sat against an old oak or in a ladder stand by myself on many a cold morning. Times are different now, as they should be. Back in the day though, this was common for many of us. Our Dads would drop us off before dawn and we were emphatically told not to budge until they returned to pick us up. If we were fortunate enough to get a shot at a buck, we had strict instructions not to track our deer until they returned. My dad had a unique, soft whistle that told me he was about to walk up. It was just two noted, with the first sound a little higher pitch than the second. It was the reverse of a bobwhite whistle for those of you that know this bird’s call. I couldn’t wait to hear this sound, for many mornings I had been sitting there shivering for five or six hours. In the evenings I remember the glow of his cigar he would light when he knew I could see it. In fact, I always knew from which direction he would come, and I would focus my attention there as darkness closed in. The walk back to the jeep was in silence and then we would relive the experience of the hunt on the way back to camp. For these memories, I am thankful.
The opening “day” meal was always the same. Seafood gumbo, in full splendor, was a tradition for years and years. I still recall the lump crab meat, the jumbo shrimp, and of course my favorite, the oysters, that were combined into a blend that was fit for a king. Mr. Chollie Warwick would assist with the cooking and I will never forget he and my dad in that kitchen with their highballs. Jon and I would be stomping around in the muddy camp compound but when the aroma of gumbo filtered outside, we both came in to watch the show. Even today, I think about those times when I enjoy a bowl of gumbo. For these memories, I am thankful.
We were always home for Thanksgiving dinner. I fondly remember the smell of the Hoppes gun oil as dad methodically rubbed the soft cloth over the receivers and barrels of our rifles. The firearms were carefully placed in the cabinet in the den and we turned our attention toward the kitchen where mom was preparing the feast to come. The bar stools that overlooked the stove was the place to be. The bowl of trash, loaded with filberts and cashews, always seemed to have someone’s paw in it. Mom kept a close eye on those that “dug” through it picking out the prize pieces. Are you nodding your head reliving those same moments? There are too many pretzels in there to begin with. The eight-ounce bottles of Coke always did taste better than the cans. Dishes of cornbread cooled, for dressing was in the making. Cranberry sauce and fruit salads were chilling in the fridge. I’ll always remember dad re-emphasizing that dinner the next day needed to be on time for we had to be back at camp at a decent hour that night. Priceless, was the look mom gave back. For these memories, I am thankful.
What comes to your mind during this time of year? Is it what you own that captivates you? Is it a football game played on this day after dinner? For many of us, there may be an empty seat at the table because of the loss of a loved one. Try to think of those best times with friends and family. Embrace and share the funny moments when the cabernet was spilled onto the turkey and centerpiece. Reflect on those gumbos prepared with best friends that share the love of the hunt. Don’t be so caught up with making sure everything in life has to be perfect. I once asked the owner of a vineyard in California what the difference is between Napa and Sonoma. His answer was simple, and I quote, “we take our wine making in both Napa and Sonoma very, very serious, in Sonoma though, we just don’t take ourselves quite so serious.” Do you get it? How profound, but how it applies to each and everyone one of us.
Being thankful is very important. Giving thanks is just as important. Enjoy every aspect of this Thanksgiving and make a special effort to collect a memory for your bank to not only hold on to, but to share as well. You’ll be glad you did. Until next time, enjoy our woods and waters and remember, let’s leave it better than we found it.