Giving thanks


At this time of year, as families gather to give thanks, time is allowed to slow down, and memories of people and seasons past can bring meaning to the present. Here, three locals share some of their favorite Thanksgiving memories.

Saying grace

by Leslie Logan, third generation member of the Logan’s Garden Shop family

The Logan Thanksgiving table was always full. Not just with food, but with people! Robert Logan Sr. and Helen Logan (Grandma and Paw Paw) had six children, all of whom grew up and had families of their own. When we came together, there was a pile of us.

The food was always amazing, everything from Grandma’s turkey-and-dressing and Aunt Rita’s sweet potato casserole to Aunt Debby’s delicious new funky recipes she would add to the table each year from some fancy magazine. The atmosphere was loud – mostly because of the cackling laughter, and random singing, and detailed recollections of family gatherings past. At times it turned into a roar. But you could be assured that once “grace” was said, the room would go quiet – except of course for the “yum”s and “ooooo”s as we stuffed our bellies. After the meal the boys would go throw the football, or maybe come back in later to watch football. And the cackling would resume.

My favorite Thanksgiving memory with the Logan family is the last one where we were all together. There were so many of us we could hardly fit in one room for the blessing. So, we decided to make a circle around the perimeter of the room. We held hands as antsy little ones squirmed and begged to eat, and we took a moment to just be silent. Instead of a traditional “saying of grace” before the meal, we went around that huge circle and everyone shared something they were truly thankful for – even the little ones. What a beautiful blessing it was on that Thanksgiving Day. There was so much gratefulness and so much fullness as we looked around the room at three generations of Logans. We mentioned the ones no longer with us, and how grateful we are for the years when they were there. Tears welled up; we were all moved by that moment of unified gratitude for overwhelming grace that has been poured out on this family. To actually say grace, to speak of the power of it and acknowledge its truth in the faces of the ones you love, is to experience its presence fully and realize that grace is a person that has been holding hands with you all along the way. 

We’ve all grown up and now have our own tables to decorate. Some cousins are far away, and the whole lot of us aren’t able to be in one place and time anymore most holidays. But there can be no question that the “grace” we spoke of that day has followed us year after year, from generation to generation. And the roots that have been established have held us strong toward the things that matter most. Because more than turkey dinners and yummy recipes, the love of a family and the chords of faith that bind us together are the things that truly fill our bellies and satisfy our souls.

Carrying on the tradition

by L. Howard Brooks Jr.

Growing up in the South means family is important, and family traditions are even more important. I was lucky enough to have two, great extended families.

My mom’s family was from High Point, N.C., and we always celebrated Christmas in High Point. The Christmas celebration was always very nice and much more formal. My dad’s family was from Wilson, N.C., and we always celebrated Thanksgiving in Wilson. The Thanksgiving celebration was always more casual.   

My dad died when I was five years old; however, my mom made a point of keeping us connected with my dad’s family. It was important for her to maintain those relationships, but more important to introduce my brother and me to the very special Brooks family.

My dad had 11 brothers and sisters. There were seven girls and five boys. They grew up in a small, two bedroom house on Gold Street in Wilson right next to  Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College). As the story goes, they were the smartest kids in the school. They were all engaged: loved to spend time together and loved to debate anything from the best barbeque to the best sports team. Three of the four boys put themselves through Duke University and Duke University Law School, so their debating skills were sharp and their wits were quick. We always looked forward to our annual trip to Wilson.

As far back as I can remember, my mom, my brother, and I would set out for Wilson around 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning. It was never early enough. Some families gather for Christmas or Easter. Not the Brookses. It was always Thanksgiving. Rain or shine, it was always the most festive day of the year.

Turkey, country ham, lima beans, mashed potatoes, dressing, asparagus casserole, and tipsy cake. There was food everywhere, and tables and chairs in every room.  I remember feeling so at home and so thankful. I can smell the food; I can hear the laughing; I can feel the love. We always have 50 – 70 people celebrating family, celebrating Thanksgiving, happy to be together.

I am 53 now. I have three kids and the Thanksgiving tradition continues: My Aunt Jack and Uncle Dick got too old to host our Thanksgiving celebration, so nine years ago my wife and I took over the tradition. My wife is from Wilson, so it was not hard to convince her that hosting 70 people on a Thursday afternoon was normal. We have moved it to Raleigh, but the tradition continues. We have added oysters, and my daughter makes sausage balls, but everything else is the same. We are older and move slower, but we still laugh, love, and are thankful for our family.

There is only one surviving sibling, but the cousins carry on the tradition. Over the years, the guest list has been extended to include neighbors and friends, which is the Brooks way: Everybody is welcome and included. After lunch we have the traditional family football game. Grown-ups versus kids. The grown-ups always win, but winning is not the point. Being together and celebrating family is Thanksgiving. I hope my kids will continue the tradition.

The Switch

by Pamela D. Evans

In the ’70s, my next-door neighbor Ellie Doyle was frantically preparing for the arrival of her younger sister and her four children. Everything had to be perfect, for the “perfect” younger sister was arriving at RDU airport late that afternoon. Dinner was to be ready when they walked in the door.

Before Ellie left for the airport, she placed a 20-pound turkey, covered with a foil tent, in the oven. Her two young teenagers, Maura and Chipper, were instructed to baste that turkey every 15 minutes.

What she did not know was that I had asked Maura and Chipper to let me know when their mother cooked a turkey. I did not tell them the reason for this request. This was, after all, a top-secret mission, and the element of surprise was imperative to its success!

Ellie pulled out of the driveway heading to RDU, and I received the call to start the mission!

Our local grocer, Bobby Mears, had no Cornish hens, but he dug through the new arrival of chickens and found the “perfect” one-and-a-half-pound fryer. It looked like it had just hatched! I ran to Ellie’s with my little chicken and my roaster. I placed her turkey on my roaster and placed my chicken on her roaster, covered with her aluminum foil tent.

“Operation Switch” was on!

Back at home, I put Ellie’s 20-pound turkey in my oven and basted it every 15 minutes. After all, this had to be the “perfect” turkey.

My first hint of what happened next was when my kitchen door was flung open by two frantic teenagers yelling “Mrs.
Evans, we need Mom’s turkey NOW!”

I grabbed it out of the oven and across the yard we ran. Ellie was standing in her kitchen and did not speak – or could not speak. I removed my shriveled-up fryer from her roaster, and replaced it with her 20-pound, perfectly basted turkey.

We did have a laugh about it … later. Ellie told me she’d run in her house ahead of her guests to check the turkey. When she removed it from the oven and looked under the foil tent, she could not breathe. She thought she had had a stroke. It just did not compute! Maura and Chipper were yelling, “Mom, we kept basting the turkey and it kept shrinking!”

The rest of the story: Four months later, on my birthday, I received a beautiful cake from the local bakery. There was no note included. When I called the bakery to inquire who had sent the lovely cake, they said they could not tell. I decided to cut myself a slice, but to my amazement the knife bounced back. It was not a cake, but a beautifully decorated block of foam rubber. Of course, I knew who sent it, but never told Ellie I had received the cake. Ellie never ’fessed up. We remained friends and had many laughs about the turkey – but never the cake.

Ellie and Dr. Ray Doyle are no longer with us. I cherish the memories of being a young mother and living next door to the Doyles. Thanksgiving is a time for enjoying friends and family. Enjoy sharing the memories, and who knows, you might experience “The Switch”!