Although I do enjoy Christmas, I think Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. I, better than anyone, like a great gift on December 25. I’m even buying myself a few things this year since Lisa isn’t here to spoil me. But to some extent, the presents have become a detractor to me. I’m getting to the age that simple time with family and friends is the only gift I care much about.
When I was a boy, we always drove to Florence, SC, for Thanksgiving. Both sets of grandparents lived down there.
A perfect Day started at Grandmamma and Granddaddy Ham’s house. The woman was the best cook south of the Mason Dixon line.
She would shuck ears of white corn and cut the kernels off the cob. She’d add butter, salt and who knows what else. When you put the stuff in your mouth, it was like tasting heaven.
Her hand cut slaw had onions that would make the hair on your arms stand up straight – I get gas just thinking about it. Boy was it tasty.
My other grandmother, we called her Idee, never saw a vegetable that didn’t come from a can; but she was more fun than a barrel of monkeys.
One Thanksgiving afternoon she talked Spurgeon, my grandfather, into driving my brother and me back into the 100 acres of woods behind their house. There was a dirt road that led to a pond on the land which had been in their family for decades.
After a twenty-minute drive and a few stops to move branches, we arrived at our destination – picture a scene from the Andy Griffith show. As we got out of the car and headed to the small basin, my brother yelled out: “Snake!!”
It was not a snake at all – it was a frickin’ anaconda. At least six feet long, this diamond back rattler was meandering along the shore line. Two senior citizens and a couple of grade school kids weren’t going to interrupt his Thanksgiving stroll.
Papa ran to the car, opened the trunk and grabbed a shovel. Yeah, this 70 something year old man was going to whack this beast in the head with a garden tool. It was like fighting a dragon with a frying pan.
As the serpent saw him nearing, he coiled up and began shaking his tail. It sounded like a Cuban maraca band.
I immediately ran my behind to the car and locked the doors in the event my family was eaten and the slimy varmint decided my skinny brother didn’t fill ’em up. My grandfather was not deterred by my departure.
“Spurgeon, you are not going after that snake with a shovel,” my grandma yelled.
“Oh Ivy,” I’d heard that response before on many occasions. It meant, Don’t spoil my fun again lady.
“Spurgeon, you’ll get killed! Chad, so something.”
As Papa, who was a bit clumsy to say the least, charged toward Sir Hiss, my sixth grade older brother knelt in front of him causing him to stumble and fall to the ground.
My grandmother grabbed the shovel, “If anything gets beaten to death today, it’ll be you old man.”
He sheepishly stood up, a bit rattled but alive. Both the snake and my grandfather survived. Although Spurgeon had to go home with Idee, which for a few days must have seemed worse than a little venom in his blood stream.
Not all of my Thanksgivings have a memory so vivid. But some of the warmest internal feelings I own are of sitting at two formica tables in Florence, SC – one tan on the top with a black ring around the side, the other white speckled with chrome legs and uncomfortable chairs.
We drank a lot of coffee in those two kitchens, and I learned a lot about being a man.
Boy what I’d give to go back for just one more Thursday.