Giving thanks for all good things

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walnuts

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a season in which we focus on home and family, with a conscious nod to what really matters.

I’ve noticed that as I get older, I recall the simple things of childhood that surprisingly continue to mean so much.

My sisters and I would gather around the kitchen table to help crack walnuts and pecans the old-fashioned way, while Mom prepared the necessary utensils to cook up a special meal.

I remember waiting impatiently to take my turn at the heavy, hand-crank food grinder that Mom secured to the edge of the table. Cranberries created a delightful popping noise and a scent like no other with each turn of the crank.

My three sisters and I pitched in to break the bread and spread it out on baking sheets to dry a bit, on its way to becoming tasty stuffing, a favorite dish that seemed to be limited to holiday feasting. Mom would sprinkle the cubed bread with savory spices, and the scent remains in memories along with those of our humble kitchen.

We spent Thanksgiving day with families who were our parents’ best friends in the community, all dairy farmers, all on that twice-a-day milking schedule while juggling a busy household filled with kids. We felt as connected to them as if they were family.

We would play outside together until the adults let us know it was time to eat.

“Remember, Mike’s up next!” someone might yell as we ran to the house, never wanting the game to end.

Thanksgiving was a day filled with laughter, an abundance of delicious food and absence of work, rare for farm families at a time when nothing was easy.

Dad used to say those were the days he could eat all he wanted because pitching corn silage and throwing bales of hay and straw kept him lean.

“When the pitchfork was retired, I should have retired my table fork!” he once joked.

Nothing had yet been quite so simplified, from the barns to the kitchens, but I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.

Today, opening a bag of nuts or a can of crushed cranberries, so ridiculously simple, inexplicably brings a crush of memories when the finished product, achieved in deliberate steps, seemed to mean so much more. For those who lived it, no further explanation is necessary.

From my home to yours, we wish you a joyous day, giving thanks for every season of life.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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