Gone are the idyllic Norman Rockwell
Thanksgivings of my youth.
I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. Ps 69:30
Say not, “What is the cause that the former days were better than these?”
You do not inquire wisely concerning this. Ecc 7:1
Gone are the idyllic Norman Rockwell Thanksgivings of my youth. But how present are the memories! Each year, rising before daybreak, we’d roam the frosty woods of my grandparents farm, relishing our last few hours of small game hunting for the year. My Dad and grandfather, our dog, Mickey, the crunching leaves beneath our feet, the cackling of a startled ring-necked pheasant, the haunting perfume of spent gunpowder wafting on the crisp autumn air… The nostalgia is palpable.
As midday approached we would gather by the old foot-bridge to clean our game; then it was time to clean ourselves up for the greatly anticipated Thanksgiving feast. Down the winding wooded dirt road we paraded from my grandparents’ “forty acres” to my great-grandparents’ farm. As we gathered round the long, lavishly decked dining table for a time of truly sanctified gluttony, the old farmhouse seemed to embrace us in the warm glow of familial love. In the eyes of youth it seemed that tangible joy flowed among the turkey and stuffing, dishes of pheasant, squirrel, rabbit, and venison, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry, lima beans, pumpkin pie and fresh cookies.
Afterward, everyone would collapse themselves into the rustic living room chairs and sofas, the fireplace roaring. I would curl up in a time of delightful eavesdropping upon the conversations and banter of the three elder Eds: my dad, grandfather and great-grandfather. Most of the stories had all been rehearsed many times before, but their telling was part of a tradition that never grew old, and never ceased to bring some warm sense of security to my childhood.
The inseparable appendage of Thanksgiving Day was Christmas Tree Friday – no Black Fridays back then. On some years there was snow, some years not – but every year was crisp and magical to me. Like mighty warriors off to battle, my Dad, my two brothers, and I mounted the wooded hillside behind my great-grandparents farmhouse on a quest for the holy grail of Christmas. Then, having seized the prize, we strapped our trophy to the top of the old Pontiac and headed home to proudly present the Queen with the glorious spoils of our battle. Mom never seemed appropriately impressed, but she did her best to play along.
Soon, mounting the stairs to the old attic, we began the great celebrative transport of boxes of lights, ornaments, garland, icicles, manger scenes, and nutcrackers. Of course, we saved the ultimate accessory of Christmas till last: my Dad’s American Flyer train set.
As evening settled upon us, the tree all magnificent, my brothers and I placed the last train track with a celebration that rivaled that of the Golden Spike of Promontory Point (Google it, if you must). The construction complete, we launched into a magical night of railroading adventure, complete with train robbers and damsels in distress tied to the tracks. The finale was the greatest! We would throw the metallic icicles across the train tracks to witness the array of sparks flying from the shorted rails. As the old black transformer responded, the pop and glow of the large red warning light next to the bright green power light signaled the end of another wonderful Thanksgiving, and the beginning of the long-awaited Christmas season.
Those Thanksgivings have long passed, along with the ring-necked pheasant, the old farmhouse, and that old train set. How easy it would be to drown in a sea of paralyzing nostalgia – a sinful longing for Thanksgiving Past. But I have found a much better way.
I gather these precious memories together like priceless gold, and review them on the lap of my Heavenly Father, whose paternal love bestowed them upon my childhood in the first place. There, in the warmth of His love, a spontaneous Thanksgiving Present emerges; and from its glow, so many current blessings are illuminated and rebound to the glory of God, as I contemplate the myriad of miraculous gifts I receive from His hand each day.
Often, in those moments, He holds before me the sure promise of Thanksgiving Future, when with my Brother, we shall mount the wooded hillside beyond this “old house”, and lay hold of the one true Christmas tree: the eternally green, Tree of Life.
~ Ed Ross
Subscribe to Ed Ross’ weekly devotional.
About Ed Ross
Ed Ross has been pastor of Springwood Chapel in York, PA for the past 16 years. He and his wife, Lynna, have been married 34 years, and have three grown children (a son and two daughters) who are all actively involved in the church and/or missions work.
Having attended Millersville University (PA: 1969-1972), Maranatha Baptist Bible College (WI: 1977-1980 ), he received a bachelor of theology from International Bible Institute & Seminary (FLA). He was first ordained into the ministry in 1980, at which time he and his wife began an Independent Baptist church, remaining there for eight years.
Ed has been bi-vocational at times, working in supervisory and management positions in the quality and manufacturing engineering fields.
He is actively involved in missions work, having spent significant time teaching among the amaZioni peoples of southern Africa. Ed has written numerous tracts and pamphlets, and currently publishes Tuesday’s Touch, a weekly e-devotional. He has also served as a city police chaplain for a number of years, and enjoys writing music/poetry, hiking, and traveling with his wife.