When I was a little girl, I didn’t give much thought to Thanksgiving except that it was those agonizing 30 days before Christmas. Now as an adult, Thanksgiving has more meaning. As a child, we spent every Thanksgiving traveling between my mom’s and dad’s parents’ homes. I spent a large part of my childhood growing up in Opelika, Alabama so we would have to travel to Birmingham to visit my grandparents during the holidays. Holidays were a big deal for me. I wanted to live in Birmingham because I considered it the big city but even more important I would be closer to my mam’maw Kennedy. Living 2 ½ hours away from Birmingham meant I couldn’t see my mam’maw regularly.
In the morning, I would always watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with my mam’maw and my dad. To this day, my dad loves that parade, and so do I. Our family tradition included lunch at the Kennedy house and dinner at my mom’s parents’ house, the Chandlers. The traditional southern dishes were served including casseroles, turkey, dressing and a plethora of desserts. My granddaddy Kennedy was known for his cornbread dressing, something I looked forward to every year. He also cooked his Japanese fruitcake and mincemeat pie. My grandmother Chandler cooked the turkey, cornbread dressing and pecan pies. My aunts would typically bring the Thanksgiving sides of green bean casserole, sweat potato casserole and so, so on and so on. It was quite a feast!
As a child I was happy go lucky and very excited to be out of school for a few days at Thanksgiving.
As I have gotten older, I understand fully the meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday. You learn very quickly as an adult what really matters and what is truly a blessing in your life. Life is not always easy and it does from time-time deal you blows. Thanksgiving 1999 was one of those lessons in life. The day before Thanksgiving I lost a cousin I was close to in a helicopter crash. We had gotten closer that year because I was helping him with his public relations strategy for his company. He was kind and he had a sweet soul. He would help anyone who needed it at any time. He gave to others without hesitation and he was very appreciative of what others did for him. He was always very complimentary of my work and help. His death was devastating for me. By no means is this story meant to make anyone sad or depressed, however, my intent is that we really need to examine what or who matters most in our lives so that we can truly reflect on what we are thankful for. Life truly is short and taking chances on people and making changes in your life are very important; not just during the holidays.
Now more than ever we need this reflection in our lives because we live in such a fast pace, technological world. We also need to show our gratitude for our blessings and for the people in our lives who help make us a better person. Reflections of gratitude and the blessings we receive are the true meaning, as I see it, of Thanksgiving.