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Joni Woolf: The days come and go

As I write this, we are into the final pressure-filled days before the Thanksgiving feast that the Woolf-Wooten clan has offered to family and friends for several years out on Bumphead Road. The turkey is thawing in the refrigerator, cakes and pies are made, and a Wednesday night simple supper of chili and bread is ready for the family members who will be arriving from as far away as Malibu, and as close by as Atlanta.
This will be the first Thanksgiving since my sister’s death; it pleases me that her three sons and their wives will be here to remind us all of the ties that bind families together, in good times and hard. All of my grandchildren will be here, as well as old friends from Macon. Friends of my daughter, Carey Wooten and her husband, Marshall, as well as his Aunt Marcia Wooten from LaGrange, will be joining us around the table to share this very special day.
The day begins early for those of us who prepare the feast; the coffee pot goes on, then it’s every man for himself to find a bite of something to hold him over until we dine about 1:30. Folks begin arriving early (though the invitation says “come at noon”) so the outdoors set-up for the day started several days earlier, with chairs added to the deck and porch, and extra wine and soft drinks (and of course sweet tea) handy for sipping while friends old and new talk … and wait.
It is a bit difficult to feed 45 folks with even a remnant of class, but we try. We still use “real” plates, silver, and glassware, and the clean-up is a bit daunting for my adult children, who do most of the work after the meal. But what we hope to accomplish — what has mattered to us through the years — is that we are all here, together, once a year. And, we include friends who do not have extended family as we do, and invite them — no, urge them — to come join us. We make them welcome. We have enough food. We have enough drink. Most of all, we slow down, visit with all who come, and invite them to return next year. Some have come since the beginning.
Most families have parts that are broken, and this family is no different. Every member of it has suffered some hurt, some loss, some disappointment along the way. But what we keep doing as a family is to bind up those hurts, express our love for each other, forgive and forgive and forgive. And hope that the example trickles down … to children and grandchildren and all those we love. Several years ago, Carey Wooten wrote a sonnet to be read at Thanksgiving, and we now read it every year. It says in fewer, better words than I ever could, just what the day means to us.
A Great Thanksgiving
The season’s barren earth and limb belie
The warmth and bounty of this gathering.
Like the warmth of air and the azure sky,
Blossoms unaware of season’s ending
Dress our banquet and deceive its guests.
As meat and meal and brackish brines do please,
So glazed and sweet creamed comforts do profess
This communion, repast, autumn reprieve:
A feast of family, feast of harvest,
Connected by blood and love and loss,
Frayed, sometimes, by fear or pride or jest,
But ever tied by duty, will, the cross.
Here we remember where we did begin,
And live to love, to die, to live again.

By the time you read this, Thanksgiving will be a memory. Many will be marching furiously into the Christmas season, armed with lists and charge cards and high hopes of finding the perfect gift. I wish them well. For the Woolf-Wooten clan, the best just happened.  We pause now, rest on our laurels, and say to each other “This was a really good Thanksgiving. I can’t wait till next year.”

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net