My grandma always made chocolate pie. My siblings, my cousins, and I liked to eat the cream filling first, and then we would nibble the yummy handmade crust. We ate the pomegranates we pulled from the tree at the end of the long dirt driveway. We cracked walnuts my grandpa picked from the giant tree in the front yard.
I distinctly remember Thanksgiving Day, 1972. I played happily in the cotton bin parked in the front yard, but my siblings and I had a secret that Thanksgiving. In the privacy of our own little cotton hideaway, we told our cousins that although we were all there together, our mom and dad were officially separated. That would be the last Thanksgiving we spent as an intact family.
Nine years later I packed everything I owned in my little 1973 Mazda Wagon, left home, and drove east. I landed in Memphis early in November, just a few weeks before “turkey day”. I got a job almost immediately, and I even found a place to live—an apartment I shared with a crazy girl who also happened to be named Liz.
On Thanksgiving Day, 1981 I sat on the floor of my small living room where I watched the Macy’s parade on television, and dined on chili beans that I ate right out of the pan. The next day someone I worked with brought me a turkey sandwich! I can still taste the yummy white bread and the smooth, thick mayo. Mmmmmm.
In 1984 my husband and I happily posed for pictures—his hand resting on my very pregnant belly. My family had no idea I’d been living in a house of horrors for much of the past two years. My abusive marriage to a cocaine addict would end eight months later, leaving my baby son and me alone.
On Thanksgiving night 1985, Tom would ask me to marry him. Oh what a difference a year makes. Tomorrow will be the 25th anniversary of that proposal.
My favorite holiday memory is—and I believe always will be—Thanksgiving 2004. Giana had been in a Utah rehab for six weeks. I made a chocolate cream pie and carefully packed it on ice for the 15-hour trip to Loa. Tom, Drew, and I laughed and talked all the way to the sleepy little town.
It was dark and cold when we pulled up to our hotel. We were exhausted and we slept well that night. Early the next morning we drove the winding 4 miles to Aspen Ranch and were directed to our daughter’s cabin. I will never forget seeing her run out of her cabin and into Drew’s arms. It was clear our little girl was on the road to recovery and was already so much healthier than she’d been in years. I wrote more about that day here.
I know what it means to be truly thankful. Loss is hard and terrible, but without it I wouldn’t fully understand how very blessed I am.