By Effie-Alean Gross
Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow (Edward Sandford Martin, 1856-1939).
Like many Americans, I have an abundance of Thanksgiving memories. One is especially noteworthy. I share it along with stories from Mynita, Rosemarie, Phyllis, and Joe.
My Lesson: An American Holiday
My sister Mynita and I toured Scotland in the fall of 2003. I missed having Thanksgiving dinner at home, but I was not missing the cooking; after all, I’d entertained lots of guests for many years. It was time to take off the apron.
As my sister will be the first to tell you, I can be a little naive. Blame it on my being the youngest in the family or the stereotypical absentminded professor. Nevertheless, I was a little surprised when I asked one of the Scots what he would be doing for Thanksgiving, only to be told it was an American holiday. I knew that! I’d read about the Mayflower Pilgrims in elementary school.
I don’t deny the fact that I longed for the traditional dinner with sweet corn, candied yams, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie. There was none of that. I couldn’t watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade or watch my late husband enjoy the traditional NFL football game between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, relaxed in his easy chair.
During a plane change in the United Kingdom, turkey sandwiches were available in a cooler near the terminal gate in Manchester. I reached in, took one, and gave thanks to God for the individuals responsible for making Americans feel at home. The white bread wrapped around thin slices of turkey luncheon meat meant a lot to me that day, and I still thank God for that simple meal. Such a small accommodation meant little to the British company leading our motor coach to gothic Durham Cathedral, but I believe God planned it. He numbers the hairs on our heads and cares about the smallest details in our lives. For this, I am thankful. Not to mention grateful for a memorable Thanksgiving excursion.
Mynita: Fowl Murder in Mesa
Many employers give frozen turkeys to their employees for Thanksgiving. My sister’s boss, an electrical contractor in Phoenix, derived much pleasure from the tradition. Since Mynita Rubel’s mother-in-law worked at the same office, the family had two turkeys: one to cook and one to store in the freezer.
The Thanksgiving after her mother-in-law passed away, Mynita and her husband decided to take a turkey out of her freezer. No expiration date was visible. They let it thaw as directed on the package and planned ahead, knowing they were entertaining in a couple of days.
Early Thanksgiving morning, Mynita removed the plastic packaging from the turkey. Immediately her nostrils were assaulted by a putrefying odor. It smelled so foul that she could hardly wait to get it outside and into the garbage bin. Now she had another problem. Where could she buy a turkey that wasn’t frozen? She called a few stores around town and found one that carried fresh turkeys, reminding her of God’s promise: “Before they call, I will answer” (Isaiah 65:24).
The Thanksgiving dinner turned out to be a success, carrying on her tradition of sharing with family for many consecutive years. However, the next day, when millions of people were doing their day-after-Thanksgiving Christmas shopping, Mynita was contacted by the police.
“We had a report about a smell of something dead coming from this house,” the detective said. “Your garbage can and contents are going to be taken for analysis.”
“Honest,” Mynita replied, “I didn’t kill the turkey!”
They both laughed.
Rosemarie: Sick Again
By the time she was nine years old, Rosemarie Malroy had gotten sick on four separate Thanksgiving Days. It wasn’t life threatening, but on four fourth Thursdays of November in Portland, Oregon, she had come down with a cold, the flu, pneumonia, or chicken pox. On the day of the fourth Thanksgiving illness, the sick little girl wanted to go to her Aunt Marion’s house about an hour away. But she was told she couldn’t. After all, her mother was a nurse and she knew best.
Rosemarie recalls, “The year my family went to my aunt’s house without me, I felt alone.” Her mother placed the telephone near the bed, gave instructions, and left.
“We’ll have a good Thanksgiving dinner when we return home,” her mother promised. She kept her word.
“In those hours of being ill on Thanksgiving Day, I matured spiritually,” Rosemarie says. “I felt God’s presence.” She thought of the Bible verse, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). That was really something to be thankful for—then and now!
Phyllis and Joe: An International Peace
After moving from Gloucester, Massachusetts to Salem, Joe Ciarametaro often used his Italian cooking skills on Thanksgiving Day. On many occasions a large gathering sat down to dinner, and on one particular holiday he served 45 guests.
Since Phyllis and Joe’s son was accustomed to inviting an extra person or two for dinner, he continued the tradition when his parents moved to Phoenix years later. This time, in the early 90s, he invited two female students from the International School of Business where he attended.
Tokikio came from Japan and Greta from Germany. They all gathered around the dinner table and sat for prayer. Passing the yams and stuffing, Joe chuckled to himself. “What’s funny?” Phyllis wanted to know.
“I was just thinking,” Joe said. “Here we are breaking bread with two representatives of the Axis powers from World War II.” He chuckled again.
The Japanese lady replied, “You, Mr. Ciarametaro, are from Italy. So that makes three of us from the Axis nations.” They all laughed together.
“But I tell you, love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44). From God’s perspective, we were all once his enemies. According to Colossians 1:21, 22, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because ofyour evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight.” Now, we have peace.
A Cornucopia of Memories
For some, Thanksgiving is a day of grieving a recently departed loved one, humbly accepting a food box from a homeless shelter, working a 12-hour day at a public service job, or fighting a war on foreign soil. For others, like Alzheimer patients, Thanksgiving is a forgotten memory, a day like any other.
For many others, regardless of age, gender, or station in life, wherever faithful Americans find themselves on Thanksgiving Day, we pause and pray. Besides thanking him for our food and bountiful blessings, we thank God for:
• answering our prayers.
• supplying our needs.
• healing our illnesses,.
• giving us family and friends.
• loving us when we were still sinners.
• revealing his Word to us.
• providing a heavenly home.
• showing us faith, hope, and love.
• sustaining us through life’s trials.
As long as we have breath, we can praise the Lord. Ask me about God’s care during my overseas travels on Thanksgiving, ask Mynita about God supplying her last-minute need, ask Rosemarie about God being by her side when she was a sick little girl, or ask Phyllis and Joe about international peace. Everyone has a story.
Yet, the one true story we never tire of is the one about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Above everything else, we give thanks to God for his Son. The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, but someday, true believers will stand in glory with the Rock of Ages.
That’s something to celebrate!
Effie-Alean Gross is a freelance writer in Fountain Hills, Arizona.
Have a Blessed Thanksgiving
• What are some of the most memorable Thanksgiving celebrations you’ve had? Were they memorable for negative or positive reasons? What did you (or can you) learn about God from your experiences?
• How can you include praise for God’s blessings during your Thanksgiving holiday?
• What do you thank God most for this year? How can you share your gratitude with others in the coming year?