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Wed Apr 28, 2010 1:11 pm

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What we didn’t know when we planned our special trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s house that year, was that it would be our last Thanksgiving in that old rambling home. My younger brother and I were in our teens and although we knew Grandpa was in his eighties and had been under a doctor’s care, we are never prepared for the things in life that we know God has control of, and with only exciting thoughts for the holiday ahead, we started out in Dad’s old Studebaker for the house in the country where they lived.

The trip was a good three hours drive from the city, and it was the house my Dad had grown up in. My grandfather had been the editor of the town newspaper as well as a school teacher. Grandma had been busy raising a large family, and although most of her family were now scattered in various directions across the states, on this special Thanksgiving everyone was together. The upstairs bedrooms were for the adults and girls, while some of the guys slept in sleeping bags in the living room by the fireplace; while others were housed with family who lived nearby.

Early morning risers would add wood and stir the embers to see that the fire was going strong. A few of the guys would join Grandpa down in the old cellar and shovel coal into the furnace. The women and girls would help Grandma set the table and assist with the large hearty breakfast menu, and soon everyone was seated around the dining room table where fellowship and good eating took place.

The day before Thanksgiving always demanded a lot of time and energy, as the preparations for a large group and meal was always made into a fun and loving time. How I enjoyed learning to fix fresh pie pumpkins, cooking them until tender, and mixing the pumpkin with eggs, sweet milk and spices, while someone else made the crusts. We could bake three pies at one time in the old oven and to this day I cannot eat a store bought pumpkin pie! There was ongoing activity in that large kitchen, and a table on a screened porch outside to place items that couldn’t be refrigerated, due to space.

Many times we would go ice skating or just walk in the snow. With several cousins my age, we always found fun things to do. When it was dinner time Grandma usually had her favorite stew or a wonderful hot kettle of soup simmering, with the smell of homemade bread, telling us her meal would soon be ready. The night before Thanksgiving was more casual and after eating we often played board games or sang songs around the piano.

The smell of good things cooking would awaken us on Thanksgiving morning and we’d make our own breakfast taking turns helping out when needed in the kitchen. As I think back, I don’t ever remember it being a chore, rather a fun time with laughter and talking with my cousins, aunts and grandmother.

My grandfather had been in good spirits and happy to have his family around. It was fun to talk with him, because he had so much history to share about “the olden days.” But after the food had been prepared, and the turkey was roasting in the oven, Grandpa gathered us all around and said he had a surprise. We knew most every inch of the old house, and couldn’t imagine what the surprise could be, or if something was hidden! But soon we heard it…….the sound of bells. Grandpa told us to get our warm coats, hats and mittens on and everyone was to gather on the front porch.

With the new snow that had fallen during the night the site in front of me that afternoon was breathtaking. It wasn’t like anything I’d seen in the city, and looking out in front of the driveway, was a team of horses pulling a sleigh. Grandpa told us to all pile into the sleigh, and sit close to one another to stay warm. There were two long benches that faced one another, with seating in the middle of the old sleigh, and some blankets that Grandma brought out to help keep us warm. Some friends that we all knew who had a farm nearby were seated up front to take charge of the horses.

Everyone, young and old got into the sleigh on that Thanksgiving Day. I remember the country roads and the beautiful white snow that blew like a soft feather into my face, and made such a picturesque landscape where we rode. It was bumpy in spots, and over the fields the sleigh runners threw off snow as we went along. Songs that the older crowd knew were sung and we joined in, while the sleigh bells made music as two farm horses led the way. It was like magic to me. And I only wish it could have happened again.

I don’t remember the details of the big meal that year; only that it was a wonderful Thanksgiving because of the memory that Grandpa helped to make. When we trust God and know He holds the future, we can be assured that He has some special plans. I think Grandpa knew that this may have been his last Thanksgiving, and wanted to make sure that year was special. He passed away the following spring. Grandma sold the old house we loved so much and moved to live with her daughter in Florida.

A number of Thanksgiving years run through my mind as I recall my youth, yet whenever I see a Christmas card with a sleigh on the cover, it brings back a vivid picture of that day with my grandparents and loved ones. I’ll always be grateful that God allowed Grandpa to share that last Thanksgiving with us and for the memory of the family sleigh ride, with the bells ringing and the horses that took us through a glistening white blanket of snow.

Very nice story. I like it too much.

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