In honor of Thanksgiving tomorrow, I will refrain from complaining about all the things (which is gonna be really hard because there are a lot of things this time of year) and tell you guys what I CAN stand, which is Thanksgiving itself. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, not because of its macabre beginnings, but because of the whole “family and thankfulness” angle. Evans family tradition involved three girls in jammies watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while Mom worked on dinner and Dad brought the tree up from the basement. As soon as the giant box reached the top of the stairs, we girls tore into it to find the list of whose year it was to put on the tree topper. The list was instituted after more than one year filled with tearful arguments of “You did it last year!” “Nuh-uh!” followed by all three girls on a ladder, none of us happy, placing the paper mache angel on top of the tree together. The list was not without its controversy. “Are you sure it is your turn?” “That’s what the list says.” “Well, I haven’t done it in, like, FIVE years so how do I know you didn’t change the list?” “IT’S IN DAD’S HANDWRITING! RESPECT THE LIST!” Shoot. Now I’m tearing up. Until that moment, we all got along famously. We felt like little project managers, dividing the plastic tree limbs by the different colors painted on the metal tips, “Is this one brown or red?” “Oh, that’s red, the reds go in the pile over there.” We may as well have been overseeing the construction of a 100-story skyscraper. Every year, as we got taller, we could reach one more row of branches than last year, but even Dad had to stand on a ladder to get the top row in place. The consolation prize for one sister who was not on tree topper duty that year was getting to put the last piece of the tree in place. The piece looked like a miniature Christmas tree itself, which was always amusing to me, and it fit down through the center of the top branches into the pole supporting the giant plastic, but beautiful, tree. We spent the rest of the afternoon putting out all the other decorations—the Rudolph doorknob cover that made it impossible to actually turn the knob, the girl in the green velvet dress who held a “candle” and I think used to play music, our stockings—after we decided whose was whose. “Dad’s is red and white stripes, Mom’s is red and green stripes.” Then our Grannie and Johnny would arrive and we’d sit down to the extravagant meal Mom had prepared. Giant turkey, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, bread rolls, and THE BEST dressing in all the land. Others have claimed the best dressing, but none has ever compared to my Mom’s. She makes the cornbread from scratch and then, I guess just prays over it? Because it tastes heavenly. Stove Top? You can keep your Stove Top. The night concluded with the family gathered around the tree. The adults putting hooks on ornaments while the girls hung each one where it belonged, the last consolation prize—getting to hang the first ornament. And, of course the night ended with one Evans girl climbing the ladder with the angel, or later it would be the Father Christmas, tree topper and everyone sitting back and admiring our work. I think I can say without bias that the Evans family Christmas tree is the most beautiful Christmas tree I have ever seen.
These days, Thanksgiving does not look exactly the same. As we got older, we did not care as much about putting up the tree. Now we “let” my niece and nephew hang most of the ornaments and we three sisters hang only our favorites, as they have special spots and no one else knows exactly where they go. We have added husbands and children (Not my own! Geez, give me a break!) to our already crowded dining room table. Our traditional spots at the table have changed to accommodate everyone. My nephew wants to sit by “Jillllian” and my niece wants to sit by me. This year, like the past two years, I will be across the country from my family on my favorite holiday. The hardest part is knowing that I won’t be part of my niece and nephew’s Thanksgiving memories. But, I am thankful for my sweet niece and nephew and that I am fortunate enough to spend several weeks with them around Christmas. I am thankful for my whole family for their unending support and encouragement. I am thankful for friends both near and far. I am thankful that Mom’s Christmas dinner menu is the same as the Thanksgiving dinner menu, so even though I must wait a month, I will get to eat dressing this year. I am thankful for a roof over my head, food in my belly, and cute clothes on my back. I am thankful for peace and love and joy and hope—which sounds corny and cliché, but those things are such great blessings and I should do better to celebrate them everyday. So I do not get to spend Thanksgiving with my family this year, but how fortunate I am that, God willing, I will spend the better part of December with them. And how very blessed I am in countless other ways. Ok, I am full on crying now and embarrassing myself in front of everyone. What, you thought I was only grumpy all the time? I am not made of stone! I have a heart! I cry at OnStar commercials!! Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. And Happy Thanksgiving, Evanses. I’ll see you soon. Until then, when you place the little girl ornament made of burlap on the tree, make sure you hang her purse and umbrella beside her. Also, she goes on the right side of the tree near the bottom…you know what, don’t worry about it, just put her wherever. I’ll fix it when I get home.