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Thankful in 1793, 1942, and 2015

I grew up in a family that ate our meals together at the kitchen table or the dining room table. We had assigned seats at each place that I never figured out. The kitchen table was round, and the dining room table was a rectangle. Mother fixed and served our childhood plates.

My dad was a stickler for manners on all occasions, even at the table. “Please” and ‘Thank you” were phrases that were expected to be used. If we wanted the ketchup bottle, we had to use the required “please.” If “thank you” was not our response, the ketchup would be taken away. We learned in a hurry to not forget the phrases.

I clearly remember a few weeks at the supper table that provided special entertainment. My brother Critt was around three, and I was six. Picking up his milk glass for a drink became a challenge for some reason. He took several sips and then spilled the rest of the glass on the table, the floor, and himself. I remember watching him to see when it was going to happen, and then suddenly he stopped. To this day, I don’t know whether it was on purpose, and he finally grew tired of the game or what. I was certainly sorry the spills stopped, but am sure my parents were thankful.

One of the most heartfelt notes I have seen about Thanksgiving was written on Thursday, November 21, 1793 by 75 year old Samuel Lane of Stratham, New Hampshire.

Here it is, in part:

“As I was musing on my Bed being awake as Usual before Daylight; recollecting the Many Mercies and good things I enjoy for which I ought to be thankful this Day;
The Life & health of myself and family, and also of so many of my Children, grand Children and great grandchildren…
for my Bible and Many other good and Useful Books, Civil and Religious Priviledges…
for my Land, House and Barn and other Buildings, & that they are preserv’d from fire & other accidents.
for my wearing Clothes to keep me warm, my Bed & Bedding to rest upon.
for my Cattle, Sheep & Swine & other Creatures, for my support.
for my Corn, Wheat, Rye Grass and Hay; Wool, flax, Syder, Apples, Pumpkins, Potatoes, cabages, tirnips, Carrots, Beets, peaches and other fruit.
For my Clock and Watch to measure my passing time by Day and by Night.
Wood, Water, Butter, Cheese, Milk, Pork, Beefe, & fish, &c.
for Tea, Sugar, Rum, Wine, Gin, Molasses, peper, Spice & Money for to bye other Necessaries and to pay my Debts and Taxes &c.
for my lether, Lamp oyl & Candles, Husbandry Utensils, & other tools of every sort…
Bless the Lord O my Soul and all that is within me Bless his holy Name…”
And there you have Thanksgiving in its glory in 1793.

Freedom from Want by Norman Rockwell   

The above painting, Freedom from Want, also known as The Thanksgiving Picture or I’ll Be Home for Christmas is one of four oil paintings that the American artist Norman Rockwell painted.

This work, and three others, were inspired by the 1941 State of the Union Address of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which he called the Four Freedoms. Roosevelt outlined “four essential human freedoms” in 1941: “Freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.” If you are interested in reading this inspiring speech, you can find a copy at http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/pdfs/fftext.pdf)

Rockwell created this painting in November of November of 1942, and it was published in the March 6, 1943 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. The people in the picture were all friends and family of Rockwell that lived in Arlington, Vermont. He photographed them individually and then painted them into the canvas. It is obviously a Thanksgiving holiday meal, but has become an illustration of all family meals. Interesting footnote to the turkey is that the family ate it; Rockwell commented that he had never eaten one of his paintings before.

Last week, we celebrated Christmas with my sister-in-law, nephew, and his family in Charleston, SC. There was no snow on the ground; in fact, the air conditioning was on, and most of us were either in sandals or barefoot. We celebrated Christmas Eve at Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church with caroling, readings from scripture, and the observance of the Lord’s Supper. It was a treasured time for me, because Critt introduced us to this service at his church six years ago. Children of all ages are welcome, and the noise level at times is a tad high.

We left there and went to Carol’s for a low country boil meal. The next day began with another homemade feast of shrimp and grits. And then we ended the day with a rib eye roast and all the fixings. No one went hungry for sure, and our fellowship was around the table.

There was something about the table fellowship at both homes. Phones were not around, and the conversation included everyone, especially the two-year-old twin girls. There was little silence as we truly ate far too much. But stories were shared about other Christmases and the menus we had. We talked about those that were missing from our Collins family time. There was much laughter, as we enjoyed each others’ company once again; reconnecting was at its best. The time we spent with each other was the best Christmas present for me, and I so thankful for it.

My grandmother Lulu passed on a recipe to my mom called Charlotte Rouge, and my nephew Ryan loves it, so that was one of my contributions. It is a simple recipe using marsh mellows, lemon jello, crushed pineapple, and whipping cream. This light dessert was enjoyed by the fifth generation in our family this Christmas.

One of my favorite authors is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He was inspired to write this poem in 1863 during the Civil War when his son went off to fight for the Union against his wishes.

Christmas Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play, 
And wild and sweet 
The words repeat 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 

And thought how, as the day had come, 
The belfries of all Christendom 
Had rolled along 
The unbroken song 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 

Till ringing, singing on its way, 
The world revolved from night to day, 
A voice, a chime, 
A chant sublime 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 

Then from each black, accursed mouth 
The cannon thundered in the South, 
And with the sound 
The carols drowned 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 

It was as if an earthquake rent 
The hearth-stones of a continent, 
And made forlorn 
The households born 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 

And in despair I bowed my head; 
“There is no peace on earth,” I said; 
For hate is strong, 
And mocks the song 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!” 

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: 
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; 
The Wrong shall fail, 
The Right prevail, 
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”


This poem gave birth to the carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Here is a version of it sung by Casting Crowns that you might enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7670CXvPX0&list=RDM7670CXvPX0&index=1

Being thankful for so many and so much, as this year 2015 ends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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