Pictures on the Mantle: Memories of Thanksgiving

Rebekah Hawkins, Associate Editor

There’s a lot of argument as to whether or not we transition too fast between Halloween and Christmas.

And to be fair, there’s some merit in those statements. When Halloween has barely ended and I’m already hearing “Holly, Jolly Christmas” on the radio, or seeing Christmas trees gracing the Garden Center in Wal-Mart, maybe it IS too early for all that.


An early family Thanksgiving. Back row: Steve Hawkins, Harold Lipscomb, Dan Norton. Middle row: Paula Hawkins, Micki Lipscomb, Selina Norton and Brenda Norton. Bottom row: Jack Norton holding baby Kacee, Janie Sue Norton holding baby Ashleigh (photo courtesy of Rebekah Hawkins).

Personally, I’m one of those people that starts planning for Christmas when Halloween ends. I spend all of October planning a perfect Halloween, then when November starts you might as well call me St. Nick and dress me all in red because I am ready for Christmas.

I love the trees and the lights and the decorations. I love the corny Christmas music and cheesy Christmas specials. I love the movies and the caroling. All of it. And I aim to start it as soon as possible so I can enjoy it longer. But sometimes I do wonder if I’m forgetting about Thanksgiving.

Sometimes when I look deep into my childhood memories I can’t remember a lot of Thanksgivings. They seem like a blur that turns into Christmas. I see a lot of pictures from Christmases past, but we don’t often take pictures on Thanksgiving. It’s mostly just a, “Hi, how are you? Haven’t seen you all year. Oh yay food! Okay, bye. See you in a month at Christmas.”

Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of the only days of the year that I see all of my family. I see my grandparents on my dad’s side more because they live right around the corner from me, but the rest of my family, on both sides, I’m lucky if I see more than just those two designated days in the winter.

It’s sad isn’t it?

I was always taught that Thanksgiving was a time to be grateful for all the things that we have. All the things that we share. I wish that I had more memories of Thanksgiving than just the ones that blur into Christmas. But there are some memories that stand out.


Rebekah’s family with her grandparents, from left: Paula, Dean, Janie Sue, Micki, Jack and Brenda (photo courtesy of Rebekah Hawkins).

I do remember the table cloth with the leaf pattern that draped over the long table. I remember how it used to just be just one long table, then it became two as the family grew. I remember the sausage balls carefully placed into a basket with an orange napkin, festive as my grandmother is, and I remember being told by my mother not to eat too many before lunch.

I remember my grandfather falling asleep in his chair and pretending like he wasn’t.

I remember being disappointed that the only dessert offered on Thanksgiving was a jam cake, and I hated jam cakes. I remember my dad hiding out in the corner by the TV so he could watch the Thanksgiving NFL games.

I remember going to my dad’s parents’ house and getting what was left over of Thanksgiving dinner before going home. I remember dad always saying that he was full and then standing in the kitchen and making himself a plate anyway.


Rebekah’s parents, Paula and Steve (standing) with her grandfather, Jack (seated) (photo courtesy of Rebekah Hawkins).

I remember my grandfather standing in front of the small kitchen window, him as tall as the window itself, and scrubbing the dishes carefully and methodically like he always has.

I remember my grandmother asking my dad if he wanted her to wrap up anything for him, and him always saying no before changing his mind and asking if she wouldn’t mind.

I remember my mom reading the Black Friday ads that were strewn on the couch and wondering aloud to my grandmother why anyone would bother getting out in all that mess.

And the sweet tea. I remember the Red Diamond sweet tea.

There are memories like those that make me smile. Memories that I can clearly see, and that still go on to this day. And there are others that I sometimes wish I could forget.

I remember the first Thanksgiving after my grandfather died. He had died on November 1, and everyone was still processing it when our first holiday without him came. I remember the house decked out in its usual Thanksgiving décor, yet slightly sad and less than. I remember his pictures being up all over the house, a reminder of him so we wouldn’t forget. As if we could.


Rebekah’s grandfather, Jack Norton, who died on November 1, 2014 (photo courtesy of Rebekah Hawkins).

I remember his chair being empty for most of the night, until my grandmother sat in it herself, as if to say, “This is where he would have been. This is where I wish he still was.”

I remember the tears when my dad said the prayer. When he said, “This family is hurting right now. Because we lost someone important. But we’re still here. We’re still a family.”

I remember all that.

I remember all the Thanksgivings after. How the house has lightened, how we’ve processed and how we’ve done our best to move on. How life has changed for us all, but how those pictures still remain where they were that first Thanksgiving without him. How he remains.

I remember Thanksgiving.

In the midst of planning for Black Friday shopping or planning for Christmas as early as I can because life is so busy, I’m going to try to remember Thanksgiving. Remember the memories I have, and the ones that are still to come. Remember that leaf covered table cloth, the jam cake and sausage balls, my grandfather washing dishes in the kitchen, the leftovers dad swore he didn’t want and those pictures on the mantle.

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