The advent of the holiday season evokes warm memories of Christmases past. Each year our extended family got together for a Yuletide reunion. Relatives gathered at the designated home for the “Three Fs” of food, fellowship, and football. The women worked in the kitchen, the men watched T.V. in the den, and the children ran wild around the house.
My Aunts Lois, Bera, or Hazel normally hosted the event. Since both of my parents were only children, the ladies in question were not technically my aunts. I THINK they might have been my great-aunts . . . or first cousins on my mother’s side . . . once removed . . . maybe! I never have understood all of that genealogy stuff. In the South, however, it is perfectly permissible to call any older relative “uncle” or “aunt.”
When dinner time arrived, we held hands around the dining room for the blessing. Before his death, Uncle Charlie served as the spiritual patriarch of the family. He did not believe in perfunctory prayers. I have preached sermons far shorter than many of his blessings. When Uncle Charlie addressed the Lord God Almighty, even the children intuitively understood that we were eavesdropping on a lifelong conversation. I always echoed the final “Amen” with relief.
Then a feast fit for the far side of the Pearly Gates commenced. The dining room table groaned with a surplus of bounty. We circled the table, filling our plates with ham, turkey, roast, vegetables, casseroles, salads, and quivering gelatin concoctions topped with marshmallows or whipped cream.
My Aunt Lois always made her “special” oyster dressing. I am a lifelong connoisseur of cornbread dressing. However, I am convinced that this particular dish was listed as an abomination before the Lord somewhere in the Old Testament book of Leviticus. However, she atoned for her sins with sugary rich desserts and special-sized portions for little boys who begged. May her memory be forever blessed.
In Hollywood productions, entire clans gather around expansive tables in lavish banquet rooms. However, our modest homes required more ingenious solutions for crowd control. The men used trays in front of the T.V. set while the women clustered around the tables. The youngsters were banished to the dreaded children’s table.
At the time, the three youngest children in the family included my sister, Margaret, our cousin, Peggy, and me. We always found ourselves assigned to the Siberia of card tables on the outer ring of the family circle. The three of us grumbled amongst ourselves about our social alienation, swearing that our children would never be subjected to such humiliation.
In retrospect, I cannot say why our place at the card table irked us so. We ate the same food everyone else enjoyed. The adults’ conversation certainly did not interest us. We always reached the dessert table first. Yet something about sitting in folding chairs at a cardboard table insinuated a lesser status.
The years and decades have swiftly passed. Since my “aunts” and “uncles” passed away, the extended family only gathers for weddings and funerals. I still recall my companions at the children’s table as giggling girls whom I adored. However, Margaret died of cancer in 1992, and Peggy lives in England with her British husband.
Today our family holiday gatherings number less than a dozen guests. At dinnertime, the entire family gathers around the dining room table. There is plenty of room for everyone, and my children have never suffered the indignity of age discrimination. I would trade these days for nothing.
However, there are moments when I long to sit at that rickety card table once again. The holidays remind us of Christmases past. We cherish past recollections and occasionally yearn for “the good old days.” Yet we are also making memories in the present. Yesterday’s nostalgia should not blind us to today’s blessings.
We also look forward with hope to the future. The moments of laughter and love we spend with family and friends are but a foretaste of glory divine. A day will come when the circle will remain unbroken. The Bible promises that God’s people will gather at a great feast, reunited with those we love. Then we will ALL sit at the children’s table as sons and daughters of our heavenly Father.
And if the heavenly host seats me at a cardboard table with folding chairs, I won’t mind at all.
Nice! Your descriptions brought back vivid memories of my having been at a similar table.
Those were the days that family was everything! I cherish similar memories of days with aunts, uncles and cousins that taught me so much or unknowingly encouraged me or my children to do or be things we never thought possible. Thanks for sharing your memories!
Bill, i loved your Thanksgiving message. It brought back wonderful memories of Thanksgivings past with aluminum TV trays, card tables for the kids, and watching football games on a black and white TV. As i read your message, i couldn’t help but think of Chevy Chase in the movie Christmas Vacation as he was watching old 8 mm home movies of Christmas’s past,while locked in the cold attic. Great memories. I was also reminded in your message that we are making new memories now. Thanks for a great message. Julius
Bill, Thank you for sharing these poignant memories of Christmases past. I am thankful for many in my past and for the love and encouragement that they shared with all at the table.May we each accept Jesus’ invitation to His banquet and love others as He has loved us. Thanks for sharing with us and may God bless and encourage you daily. You are appreciated.
Bill, this was great and brought back so many childhood memories of holidays with my dear grandmother and family in her rented upstairs duplex. We also had a group of kids sitting at a card table, but what made it special for me was my Aunt Fran – who provided us with an ice cream snowball rolled in coconut and lit with a red candle – which we all got to blow out. At Christmas, the “head” table had traditional delicacies like pickled pigs feet, disgusting black rice sausage and some kind of whole fish, so I must say I was happy to be at the table with the coconut snowball. Something you said really resonated with me.: “Yesterday’s nostalgia should not blind us to today’s blessings.” It is so easy to forget the memories we are making today while longing for memories past. Our family members have also shrunk (and it changes a person or two each year), but I treasure everyone who is present at that Thanksgiving table! This year my niece’s husband’s mother joined us and we warned her about our traditional salute to the troops waving the American flag while singing “God Bless America”. She is a Martha Stewart type so I wondered how she would feel about this spectacle. Well, she joined right in and was a perfectly delightful guest – in fact, I think I made a new friend. I am blessed in the present and I am blessed in the past! Thank your for your warm reflections which made me smile!
Yes, I remember the ‘card table’, only with us there were 39 counting aunts, uncles and cousins.
Tables were everywhere…they went room to room all over the first floor. Turkeys and pies (the only things we kids were concerned about) were everywhere. I think there were 4 kids tables, so we didn’t really feel ostracized at all. It is was all wonderful. It is not like that today as my family is spread out all over. We are lucky to get to see each of them once a year. So, I do yearn for those days.
But, you’re right…we are making new relationships at Church that fill the void left by departed parents, aunts, and uncles. Actually, just 6 cousins left now. So, it is important to look to the future.
My extended family never really got together that much at Thanksgiving or Christmas as it would have been unworkable. My Father was one of 8 children and my Mother was one of 6 children and they were all spread out all over creation. Your story did remind me of family reunions we did have from time to time which were very similar. My Mother always brought a coconut cake from Rich’s and those cakes always disappeared fast. Many family members that I fondly remember being there have now gone to their heavenly rewards. Fun, food and fellowship. Both families had (and have) great cooks.
Thanks for sharing your wonderful story. My story iw a bit different as we did not celebrate Thanksgiving in Jamaica but rather we celebrated Harvest where the church was decorated on Harvest Sunday with all the first fruits of the crop. These were sold on Monday and the yield went to repair the church and given to the needy. It was fun time for us as we were dressed in our Sunday best and were able to partake of all the goodies.
Be blessed. I am enjoying your sermons each Sunday. May the Christ of Christmas bring you Peace and good health.
One of the greatest blessings of the holidays is all the memories that are generated over the years. How precious these memories also become when they included loved ones no longer with us. Thank you for sharing your stories–they are in the true spirit of Christmas!
Thanksgiving was always one of my favorite holidays,consisting of relatives from central and north Florida with our sample games of the upcoming Seminole and Gators game, and shirts that indicated the preferred team. Blessings, fellowship,giggles,sharing were all part of kid fun. We used tables, card table then as we grew, borrowed the items from Church; after we grew up, we brought our own kids for them to share in the family get togethers. More than anything,we came to reunions to thank God,to share in one another’s loss of loved ones,and renew our love for one another. My mom went to her last reunion in 2013, but she and others paved the way in their faith and hope for the future. I still love Thanksgiving,but its not like the old family reunions,where so many relatives came together to celebrate,relax, be thankful, and appreciate one another.
I enjoyed your story of past holidays and the memories they bring back. I did not grow up in Georgia but have heard many stories about the Pink Pig and Rich’s Christmas Tree. I do remember all the past Thanksgivings & Christmases – together with family is what it is all about. Thankfully, part of my family will be here for Christmas, and we have started our own traditions. We must remember what Christmas is about – the birth of Jesus, and not all the buying frenzy. I enjoy your sermons each Sunday. God Bless you & yours and have a Merry Christmas!