Thanksgiving has always been special for me. My parents came from big families, but in spite of the numerous aunts, uncles and cousins, we were and still are very close. A lot of families don’t get together much, if at all anymore and barely know their extended families. Growing up, we didn’t need a holiday or special occasion to get together. Every Sunday after lunch, we piled into the car or truck and went to Mama Parker and Granny Stapp’s house to visit. After my grandmothers passed on, some wondered whether we’d still to get together but I knew my grandmothers would expect us to, so the planning has been passed on to me to ensure it is carried on. Granted, it isn’t quite the same without our grandmothers presence, but their spirit is still very much alive and hardly a day goes by I don’t think of them.
Holidays were always extra special because it was a celebration of life and a holiday. Easter marked Mama Parker’s birthday and Thanksgiving also marked Granny Stapp’s birthday on Nov. 24. Granny Stapp was mother of 13 children, 6 of which were twins, 15+ grandchildren, 32+ great grandchildren and 26 greatgreat grandchildren. My Granny was the best Granny on earth and she embodied what many envision a Granny to be — a gentle, sweet and beautiful woman inside and out who always wore dresses and her long hair pulled up and twisted in a bun on her head. I was always in awe of her simple faith, wisdom, patience and love and as I grew older she became much more than just a granny to me, she was my very best friend in the whole world. Granny had a way with children, pets, plants and flowers and her house was filled with plants as was her front porch and yard. The most important thing she taught me was to love everybody and everything and to appreciate the simple things in life. I was blessed that she lived to share the birth of my two children.
When I got married, I gained two more grandmothers who quickly found a special place in my heart. Both were very special in their own ways and I learned a lot from them, too, and more special memories were born. Fourth of July also marked Maw Maw’s birthday and Thanksgiving also marked Mom Ketchem’s birthday on Nov. 27. Mom Ketchem was full of wisdom, faith and pride, and it showed in everything she believed in. Mom was proud of her family, her home, her country and her faith and went to great lengths to pass that sense of pride on to others. Mom set a fine example for others by working well into her 70s, eating healthy and exercising and keeping her mind sharp by reading the Bible, National Geographic, Newsweek and Readers Digest. Mom lived a full life, always staying busy whether it was working, traveling or taking care of her home and those she loved. She was a strong woman whose faith and love touched and inspired many.
There was also one very special aunt, Miss Naomi Gene Ketchem, who touched not only my life but many others through her love. Aunt Gene was smart, funny and loving but her faith inspired me most. Aunt Gene was special — she was born with special needs but she didn’t allow them to limit her to living life to its fullest and serving God first and foremost in all she did.
Each of my grandmothers were wonderful cooks in their own right — I don’t think anybody made better chicken stew and dressing than my Mama Parker and she always made two big pans. Mam Maw was more than willing to share her ‘secret recipes’ with me, but nobody made divinity candy like hers. Mom Ketchem always made mincemeat and pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving and her yeast rolls were nothing short of heaven. She even taught her son Paul to make them but nobody topped her fried chicken, not even Colonel Sanders.
We were all blessed to have grandmothers and great grandmothers who showed us what love really is and I am thankful God allowed them to live long enough to be such a big part of their lives. I count my blessings every day but on Thanksgiving I stop to thank God for His love — because that’s where it all starts but the most special part is that it never ends.
May you and yours have a Blessed Thanksgiving!