• There were the countless Thanksgivings of my childhood spent in the Mississippi Delta. There’s nothing better than farm country in the fall. Harvest has happened and deer hunting season is in full effect. I remember the adults being cavalier with their joy. I would sneak beers, and I once almost lit my Memaw’s house on fire when I was playing with matches. That was not all in the same year.
  • Once, in high school, my mom decided we should get up at East Jesus in the Morning and drive to the Baptist Mission Church in downtown Jackson to feed the homeless a Thanksgiving Dinner. Then we got there and the well meaning pastor made all of us (homeless dudes and suburban ladies alike) sit through a lengthy worship service. So the math on that one is: Showed up feeling self righteous, left feeling furious. My Dad and brother stayed home to cook. To quote our Lord, I believe that they had chosen the better part.
  • If my parents had any Thanksgiving “tradition” it was inviting over weirdos. One year mom invited over someone that we only peripherally knew. She saw him at the grocery store on Thanksgiving morning. And since he did not already have plans (ALERT, ALERT), she invited him to our house. He rolled into our foyer with his wife and asked for my parents to pull out the “family Bible” so that we could have devotional time before lunch. My Dad was like, “Yeah, I’m not sure where it is? Maybe up top in the hall closet with the broken gun?” Just like the Gospel says. 
  • A few years later, College Sarah brought the strange guests home for Thanksgiving. She came by it honestly.
  • One year I brought home a graduate student from the University of Alabama. He had served in the Israeli military and was in his thirties. When he found out my grandmother was from the Delta he asked her point blank if she had ever had moonshine. This is never a question to ask a Southern Baptist woman at a Thanksgiving table. We all stopped breathing. She laughed coyly and actually seemed to enjoy the attention. I mean he was adorable and did have a very cute accent. Who could blame Lois for her noncommittal giggle?
  • The next year I would get into a very big Thanksgiving Argument with my parents about why they wouldn’t let me have a glass of wine. I was 20. I remember yelling something like, “WHAT THE HELL? I DRINK ALL THE TIME AT COLLEGE.” We were at a neighbor’s house.
  • The following year I rolled in with my vegetarian boyfriend. He had “prepared” a Tofurky. I thought my dad was going to fix the broken gun. The highlight of the afternoon was that our elderly neighbor took one bite of the fake meat product, looked at my Dad and said, “Owen! This is the best pork roast you’ve ever made!”
  • Thanksgiving as a newlywed in New York City is just as gorgeous as it sounds. My husband was an assistant at a church on the Upper West Side. We would walk across Central Park so he could lead the morning service and it would let out just in time for us to see Santa Claus end the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. You just can’t top that.
  • Two years later, when Josh would become rector of a church in Westchester County, I spent Thanksgiving in our backyard eating Girl Scout Cookies, drinking cheap red wine, and crying. No one had thought to invite us over and we couldn’t afford to go home. 
  • Thus began my tradition of inviting over all of the clergy we knew on Thanksgiving and ordering all of the food from the grocery store. One year I did try to make a turkey in the crockpot. It was terrible. No one cared. We drank gin and tonics and played Apples to Apples. And like Scarlett O’Hara, I swore that as God is my witness, I would never have a sad Thanksgiving again.
  • Now that we have small children, the holiday makes me laugh. And it makes me long for family. There’s a tremendous amount food, anxiety, and seasonal allergies to contend with. It is the Holy Trinity of the day. I just hope I remember to leave a few matches scattered around the house within reach of the children. For old time’s sake.