The Thanksgiving image that always comes first to my mind isn’t of pumpkin or turkey or some crowded living room. It’s of my toddler self looking wide-eyed out the window of a red 1957 Ford Country Squire station wagon at my father, who was standing knee deep in blowing snow. We were trying to get home to Nashville from Wheeling, West Virginia, where we had gone to visit my maternal grandparents. The ambush of a huge winter storm caused us to turn back after several hours when we were only a few miles from my grandparents’ house. The next day we made it much farther, until the car broke down on some Kentucky highway. I remember the cold and my daddy’s concern.
My brothers filled in the rest of the story, which is lost for me except for the Polaroid memory of watching the car window frost from my breath. Our dad had no clue about how the car worked beyond turning the key, and I’m sure he was frantic. It was the last Thanksgiving our mother was alive, and she was already deep into her battle with the cancer that claimed her shortly before the next Thanksgiving. I’m sure our dad was concerned about her fragile health, as well as about the elderly lady who helped care for us and accompanied us on the trip.
The only available lodging was a house/hotel of sorts that perhaps was an early generation bed and breakfast. The proprietor took us in, I suppose someone managed to fix the car, and eventually we made it home to play in three-foot drifts of snow, which is extremely rare in Middle Tennessee. To us kids, it was a great adventure. My brothers and I laughed and teased each other as we shared the memory.
Many things change with your perspective. For the adults in the car, the “adventure” was probably upsetting and even terrifying. The heavy weight of responsibility often crushes delight. Worry can easily overshadow joy. The reality of a strong storm for which you’re unprepared – one that also affects those you love – makes it hard to appreciate the wonder of an unexpected snow.
Gratitude can be hard to muster in the swirling blizzards of life. Enormous pain, hatred, conflict and despair churns within us, around us and across the world. Routinely, my spirit feels like a broken, ice covered shell at the side of the road. Perhaps yours does, too.
At this time of Thanksgiving, I pray you notice the flurries of wonder that may accompany your journey. And I hope you are blessed with loving siblings, whether of blood or of choice, with whom to share the simple moment. Either provides a rich bounty for which to give thanks.
Marnie C. Ferree