Stories, Memories, and Pumpkin Pie: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a special time of year for many LifeBook authors, interviewers, ghostwriters, and staff.

In essence, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season and heralds the arrival of the long winter nights. As families gather, connections across the generations are renewed, old stories are told, and new memories are made. These stories and memories of family gatherings sit at the heart of what we do and are often among the most heart-warming tales that we help to tell.

Listening to authors recount their experiences has inspired me to capture what I think of when I remember past Thanksgiving gatherings at home. Maybe it will all go in my own memoirs, one day.

Stories, traditions, and chaotic joy

As fall has firmly taken hold in the foothills of Tennessee, the cold air surrounds me as I make my way to my family’s house. The leaves have turned magnificent shades of red, gold, and orange. Hay bales and pumpkins line the driveway as we pull in. Time to gather the children and make our way inside.

We are greeted warmly by each family member present in the tightly packed home. The turkey is in the oven. The table is set. Freshly pressed linens and lit candles adorn the tables. Women rush in the kitchen to finish the sides and desserts. Great-grandmother’s pumpkin pie must be crafted just so, and we cannot recall the exact ratio of nutmeg to cinnamon! The box full of her hand-written recipes needs to be found.

Kids run between tables and chairs before they are inevitably sent outside to play while the men gather in the living room around a sideboard of appetizers. “Is it even Thanksgiving without sausage balls?” my father asks with a chuckle. The parade is over, and now it’s time for football. Grandparents smile and take it all in, at peace and feeling nostalgic for days past just like this one.

When dinner is ready, everyone gathers around the table, ready for the feast. But first we must honor tradition. What are you grateful for this year? Answers are given one by one, bringing smiles and laughter to the faces around me. Impatient children try to sneak a roll or two. My father blesses the food, and it is time to dig in.

Traditions—the passing of family recipes, the loud conversations, mothers whispering about which Black Friday deals they have planned to take advantage of—are a big part of the day. Perhaps none mean as much to me as sitting beside my grandmother and hearing her stories. She is a woman of great strength, and I hope to one day be just like her.

She tells me stories of growing up in a small community in Tennessee. She tells me about the hardships of farm life in the 1940s. I laugh as she tells me about taking baths once a week, which seems outrageous in today’s world. I cry as she talks to me about my family members who have passed away and her memories of them. I feel emboldened by her steadfastness and independence. I cherish these moments with her, knowing that time is fleeting.

It has been a day of chaotic joy, but now everyone has had their fill of food and the children are falling asleep. We are supplied with leftovers that are piled high on paper plates and covered with aluminum foil. There will be no need to cook tomorrow. My parents kiss us goodbye and we make our way to the car. The darkness beckons us home. I exchange a hug with my grandmother and promise to call her soon. It is a bittersweet end to another Thanksgiving, for I never know if this will be my last with her.

Reflection and gratitude

We each have different memories that Thanksgiving invokes. Maybe yours is much like mine or maybe you prefer a smaller, more intimate gathering. Maybe yours is spent volunteering or working so that others are able to enjoy their families. Maybe your Thanksgiving is spent surrounded by friends who feel closer to you than family. Maybe you run in the Turkey Trot, dressed shamelessly in a turkey costume. Whatever your traditions are, Thanksgiving is a day for reflection and gratitude. We at LifeBook Memoirs encourage you to spend this Thanksgiving enjoying every moment.

Written by Jessica McNeely (on the right), LifeBook Memoirs sales advisor, with her family on Thanksgiving