Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

November 26, 2006


Giving thanks is a healthy exercise of our freedom


          Most Americans observed last Thursday as a day of thanksgiving. It is a good thing that the fourth Thursday of every November is set aside by our nation as a holiday to give thanks for our blessings.

          Somewhere I read that the first such Thanksgiving in America was held on a day in the fall of 1619. The early pilgrims celebrated a good harvest of their crops by inviting their Indian neighbors to join them for a meal. Later in 1623 Governor William Bradford designated a day for the colonists to come together and give thanks to God for their blessings.

          President George Washington liked the idea of a day for thanksgiving. He chose February 19 for such a day. Perhaps he favored February because it was the month of his birth. November seemed a better time probably because it was at the end of the harvest season.

          In subsequent years a day of thanksgiving was observed by our countrymen on the third Thursday of November, then the last Thursday of the month. Finally the nation settled on the fourth Thursday of November. People like Thanksgiving for many reasons. Most people do not have to work. Throw in Friday and you have a nice long weekend.

          Many people travel to spend Thanksgiving with their families so a lot of people in the transportation business must work. For them Thanksgiving is not a fun time for food, family, and football.

          Some of us can remember hectic times trying to get home for Thanksgiving and wishing we had stayed home. My wife and I once spent Thanksgiving Day in a New York airport. Pilots went on strike a few hours before we landed in LaGuardia on a trip from Rome. It is not a fond memory. There was no turkey and dressing, and no cranberry sauce that day.

          This past Thursday we enjoyed a wonderful meal at the old home place where I was born. My parents built the home in 1930. Our youngest son Steve and his wife Amy bought and remodeled the home a few years back.

About forty family members and friends brought food and enjoyed sharing memories together for a couple of hours.

          As the day wound down I recalled earlier Thanksgiving celebrations with my family. Those days were not better but they were different.

          Death explains one difference. Many who once were among us walk with us no more. I could close my eyes and see the faces of some of the deceased, like my own mother and father.

          We were blessed to have the Patriarch of my mother’s family with us. He is Mama’s only living brother, Wylie Pierson Johnson now of Birmingham. My siblings and I love to hear him share memories of the old days, especially times when he stayed with our parents. Though now 88, Uncle Wylie enjoys good health and a remarkable memory of the past.

          Food is another difference. Thursday the tables were laden with delicious food as usual. Some dishes were what we have come to expect. My wife prepares dressing and gravy that everyone raves about. Son Mark deep-fried two turkeys. Cousin “Cho Cho” brought her specialty – a banana salad. Sister Margie her mouth-watering coconut cake. Pearl her collard greens. Sister Neva her great broccoli salad.

          But nowhere to be found was my Mama’s special dessert – Ambrosia. Nor did anyone bring salted, roasted pecans. Mama always had those two items on the table at Thanksgiving. Despite the absence of those two dishes we all ate too much as usual.

          This Thanksgiving was different also in that some members of my family were not present. Some had other plans and some had to work and could not come. In the past what made Thanksgiving so special was that nearly all of our family was together. But things change and people change.

          Special to us was the presence of dear friends we invited to join us for the day – Klaus and Brigitte Guenzel and their two young daughters. The Guenzels are from Germany but live in Montgomery while Klaus is stationed at the Maxwell War College. Sharing this day with them reminded us that good friends can become precious members of your larger “family.”

          Beautiful weather, delicious food, lots of children, family members, and good friends all made Thanksgiving Day 2006 a wonderful day. William Bradford would have been proud of us. As he had advised the pilgrims to do, we gathered together and gave thanks to almighty God for all our blessings. + + + +