This is about Thanksgiving, but it starts with the death of my father.
He died the same month as two of his sisters-in-law, the last two surviving Smith sisters. There were four — my mother was No. 3 — and now three families planned to bury the remains in October.
A cousin living in town saw a guy painting the house that my grandmother, Pearl Smith, had bought in 1918 with her fiancé before they married. Her husband, her mother and her father died within a very bad few months of one another, and they all were laid out for viewing in the house. She raised her four teenage daughters as a single mom afterward.
My most vivid memories of the house were the Thanksgivings. The daughters and their husbands made eight adults. My grandmother and other relatives added at least four, and there were nine cousins, so more than 20 came to her house every year for Thanksgiving dinners. It was loud, and wonderful.
After dinner, we moved to the living room so she could play the piano, and all gathered around her to sing patriotic songs and hymns and Christmas carols. Yes, my Thanksgivings as a child were like Norman Rockwell paintings.
So I called the guy who owned the house — out of the family since the mid-1970s — and asked him if my cousins and I could get inside to see it one last time. He agreed.
As we walked through the house — the rooms were smaller than any of us remembered — one of my cousins said she had the old Thanksgiving table, and she didn’t want it. She had no use for it, but her mother, who had died in July, wouldn’t let her get rid of it.
I said I’d use it, and now it’s coming my way, something to keep memories of those wonderful holidays alive, one more thing to give thanks for.