My brain wanders aimlessly through the memories of years gone by. Somehow the older I get the more I like to reminisce about family life in my childhood. Maybe it’s because I have trouble remembering what I had for breakfast this morning. Bringing back a memory from 40 years ago is somewhat cathartic and makes me have an illusion that I am still in charge of my brain.
I shall never forget (I hope) the Thanksgiving memories I have from family get gatherings on Corbin Lane in Azle, TX. We always gathered at the home of one of the classiest ladies I have ever known. She never owned fine clothes and only rarely left a 3 county section of north Texas. I doubt she even knew how to place the silverware for a formal setting. Of course, who really does except those frumpy ladies that resemble Aunt Bea from Mayberry, NC?
Her name was Lela Hattie Dobbs and she was my widowed grandmother. One of the neatest things my mother ever did was to give me a copy of Mamoh Dobbs’ wedding picture. Unfortunately, my grandfather died the decade before I was born. He had been a paint-and-body man in the early half of the 20th century before we really understood the dangers of lead based paint on the lungs. I carry a small snapshot of him in the Bible that I preach from to remind me of my heritage. But, I digress.
Mamoh was a widow for over 30 years. She passed away in July of 1986. In the years immediately after her death, on her birthday I would think to myself, “Well today Mamoh would have been 89.” Those birthdays always seemed achievable had she not had failing health. But, this past June she would have been 108. Although a few people live that long it is beginning to make me feel old knowing that she was only 84 when she passed.
My cousin Patty lived with her for a few years. I can still remember hearing Mamoh yelling for Patty to come home for dinner. She would start off with a normal voice yelling “Patty”. Then she would repeat the name taking the first syllable into a connecting soprano sound of “Patteeeeeeeeee.” Not only did Patty know it was supper time but, so did half of the 76020 zip code.
I vividly remember my uncles gathering around the old kitchen table at Mamoh’s house and playing old fashioned poker. They didn’t know anything about Texas Hold’em with rivers and flops. They just played regular poker, 5 card stud, No Peakee (they actually called it something else…but, out of respect for political correctness I won’t mention it here) and a few other games I can’t remember. The room was always smoke filled because they all seemed to chain smoke. Asking a smoker to go outside in those days would have been gained a response involving some coarse language. There was always a lot of laughter and occasionally heated arguments and threats of bodily harm that only resulted in bruised egos.
As I drove by that old house on a recent trip to Texas, I was amazed at the small size. I doubt if the square footage was over 800 square feet. How did we fit 20 – 25 people in there at one time? It’s no wonder the relatives were always trying to get the kids to go outside and play. And, then there were the repeated screams of “Don’t slam the screen door.” The one who slammed it was usually long gone and never heard the voice but somehow it made the adult feel as if they had accomplished something.
If you will be gathering with family this Thanksgiving, take a few moments to be truly thankful to God for your family. I would love to be able to pick up the phone and call my Uncle Billy and tell him about the latest opportunity the Lord has given me to witness for Him. How I would love to see my Mamoh hand me my own special loaf of banana bread with no walnuts. What a joy it would be to have my Aunt Frances chase me around trying to get a hug. They are all gone now.
As I ponder Thanksgiving and think back to those days of family celebrations, I remember that we didn’t have much money in those days. But, as I think back through the memories of yesterday I realize we were very wealthy indeed. We had family and we had love. Happy Thanksgiving!