I grew up in the small Southern town of Dillon, South Carolina. As a student at East Elementary School, my favorite time of the week was when we gathered in the school auditorium and practiced our singing. This was my favorite song:
“Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go,
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifting snow, oh,
Over the river and through the woods, trot fast my dapple gray,
Spring over the grounds like a hunting hound for this is Thanksgiving Day.”
Singing this song was how we little ones knew Thanksgiving was approaching and we sang it with great glee and anticipation. This meant time off from school and great food ahead. I still find myself singing this song in my head every year at this time.
Our community was serious about Thanksgiving. The Protestant churches gathered the Wednesday before Thanksgiving for a Community Thanksgiving Service. My family, who were Methodists, always attended. Years later when I studied religion in college, I wondered why other religions were not included if it was a “community service.”
The meal my mother cooked was divine. She was the ultimate Southern cook. Her dressing cannot be duplicated. Believe me, I have tried. I loved the time off with my dad at home and even enjoyed the leftovers.
My brother and his friends had a Thanksgiving tradition. Anyone who was home that weekend from college played on the Browns’ vacant lot behind our house in their own Bowl game, which they called, “The Toilet Bowl.” It somehow always just happened.
I miss those Thanksgiving weekends- friends, family, food, community. I was blessed to grow up in that small Southern town in a family who loved me and a community who cared. I guess that’s what Thanksgiving was all about.