It was my Mother’s fault and it was, I believe, intentional–she made Thanksgiving my favorite holiday. When you grow up in a world where family is everything and you have to work year-around, taking time out to thank God for your blessings in the presence of that family becomes the focus of the year. Of course the prospect of the hunting with my relatives was cause for a young boy for part of that love of the season, but it was Mother that brought the whole thing together–a warm house and laughter and a dinner table groaning under the weight of her handwork, a labor of love.
You cannot talk about Appalachian culture without considering Thanksgiving and the Appalachian women that hold families together. This is the backbone of our culture. Thirty-nine years ago a young woman from West Tennessee left behind her world and joined me to start a new life–and it was at that time we began our own Thanksgiving traditions. Yes, we still participated in our own families’ celebrations, but we began to mould how we would give our thanks for our own many blessings. Like so many young women that have come to these mountains, Cecelia brought with her a firm commitment to independence and self-sufficiency, and an ethic that promised a just reward for hard work. Proudly I have stood at her side as we worked the garden and taught our children and when the time came, we brought in the harvest that kept our family together. She did these things as a matter of course and kept our focus on truly living our lives, not just existing. She insists on setting aside this holiday to deeply give thanks to God for this place and this time and to fully enjoy the fruits of her labor. She dotes on her sons and their families, she loves her horses and dogs, she is an enthusiastic and successful hunter and she will set before us a table spread with all the delicacies she, and the season, can provide: the roasted wild turkey, grouse and venison, the home-canned vegetables and fruit preserves, the sourdough bread awash in real butter, and the home-baked pies. Her hard work and personal effort have made these things possible and her sharing her labor in this fashion is her way of sharing her love. And, in this wayperhaps she honors all of the Appalachian women who came before her, and all of those of tomorrow who will follow her in years to come..
We have never been over-burdened with the material things so many call important these days–in fact it would be accurate by that yardstick to call us poor—but we are proud of our hard work and successful children and we take time during this season to share our wealth.
From Cecelia and I, and all of the Hamptons, we wish for you a happy Thanksgiving.