"" Writer's Wanderings: Over The River

Monday, November 20, 2017

Over The River

This is an article I wrote quite some time ago--at least 12 years since we have been married 49 years now. My mother-in-law passed on a few years ago but the stories still remain and many more are being told. Golden stories will circulate at everyone's Thanksgiving table. Cherish them.


 “Over the river and through the woods…” begins to play in my head about this time of year. Actually, it is more like “over the interstate and through the town,” and it’s not always to Grandmother’s house we go.
For more than thirty-seven years now, we have attended the Robbins’ Family Thanksgiving. Over the years the number in attendance has fluctuated between 25 and 40. Many of those are overnight guests who arrive at the host home on Wednesday evening. Six or eight cooks stay up most of the night to make two turkeys, stuffing, and gravy. It takes that many because there is always the debate to stuff or not to stuff. Then sentry duty to be sure the losing side doesn’t attempt any covert operations. Oh, the stories I could tell about those late nights.
The rest of the meal is brought in by assignment. My assignment for thirty-six years has been the relish tray. Everyone has a special dish, most of which have been handed down through the generations. My husband inherited the onion casserole from his uncle, and his brother whips up a broccoli casserole from an aunt’s recipe. These are very important assignments. They keep a family legacy alive.
Great Grandma Robbins (my mother-in-law) inspects each dish as it arrives—not to see if it’s made correctly, but rather to honor the memory of the family member it represents. As each dish arrives, the stories begin to flow. Helen used to teach literature…Dave was quite a woodcrafter…Arch was stationed at Okinawa… The stories are rich in history as well as genealogy. They give a glimpse of times past and a connection to the present that promises hope for the future.
“Storytelling is a monumental act. In its finest hour it becomes a psalm of praise and thanksgiving for the love and connection of family,” says Eileen Silva Kindig in her book, Remember the Time…? Whether people gather around campfires or kitchen tables, stories passed on through generations become the thread that binds relationships and preserves history. Family stories give us a sense of who we are and where we come from. They give our grandchildren inspiration, a sense of humor, courage, and confidence.
Children can see pictures or visit museums full of old cars that need a crank to start them up, but a story about Uncle Henry who fell on his face in the mud while cranking up the old Ford captures their imagination—especially if Uncle Henry was on a first date with his new lady friend.
Family stories are more than just history. They can teach morals and ethics as well. They tell about patience, inner strength, hope, facing fears, and heroism. They instill pride and pique curiosity.
My two-year-old granddaughter already knows how to operate a simple computer. Someday I hope to tell her stories about life before computers. Those days when we had to use pen and paper, envelopes and stamps. I will tell her about the computer that her Grandpa put together in our basement, how it sprawled across half of the unfinished room, and had huge tapes that spun around as it “thought.” All of that now fits into a device you can hold in your hand, use to talk with someone, and instantly send photographs of the Thanksgiving Day turkey.
I can hear her in a few years exclaim, “You didn’t have a computer when you went to school, Grandma? How did you survive?”
And Grandma, the storyteller, will just smile and say: “We managed. Pass me some more turkey and I’ll tell you how.”

(Published at Inspired Parenting.Net, November 31, 2005)

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