Thanksgiving (and life) is all about the baste

Published 4:18 pm Monday, November 21, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The Thanksgiving holiday seems to bring back memories for so many of us and as I get older, those memories become so much more precious.  Some of these memories are about my childhood and the things Thanksgiving brought about in my family and community.

My earliest memory of Thanksgiving begins when I was about five and sitting in Spring Garden Baptist Church with my family listening to the choir sing songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. I don’t hear these songs sung much anymore, but I still remember every word of them. Hymns like ‘We Gather Together.’ ‘Come Ye Thankful People Come,’ and ‘For the Beauty of the Earth.’

After church we would go home and eat dinner. Some years our Thanksgiving table was bountiful and some years not so much. We always had turkey and lots of vegetables, but some years the pies, cakes and other treats didn’t adorn the table. That’s when neighbors would tell Mama to come over and get slices of pie and cakes for us kids. Truly our neighborhood was one of sharing and caring. I am forever grateful for that.

Many Thanksgiving days were spent with my grandmother who lived in Belhaven.  I did not appreciate going to her house in my younger years because she lived a simple, no-frills life. She fished in the nearby creek, had an ‘outhouse’ toilet, gathered drinking and cooking water from an outdoor pump and collected rainwater in barrels for everything else. She baked sweet potatoes on top of a cast iron stove in her living room instead of her oven in the kitchen. She did not own a TV for many years and really did not want one. I was a teenager when she got a color set and then at least I could watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade while helping her with getting the dinner ready.

One thing I remember most about those days spent with her was how she talked about meal prep and made life lessons out of it. One time I was helping her prepare a turkey. She was explaining why she basted the turkey for so long.  She said “life was like basting a turkey. Without the basting, turkey would be dry, hard and not so flavorful. If you want a good turkey, you have to spend time and patience getting it just right. Life, she said, was like that. Some folks have a dry, hard life because they don’t baste it with thanksgiving to the Lord for what they have. “Life gone be like you make it,” she said. “Life gone be hard and dry sometimes but if you baste it with gratitude for what you do have, life will come out good for you. It’s all about what you baste your life with.”   Well as a fourteen-year-old, I didn’t quite make the connection then, but I can reassure you, many decades down the road, I get it now. I have learned to baste my life with gratitude for what God has done for me.

Thanksgiving Day really is a place card in time to think about all the things we could be grateful for.  I am so grateful for my family, friends, Harbor Church, health, and blessings too numerous to list here. I am also very grateful for all of you who read the thoughts I share in this space and for the Washington Daily News to grant me the opportunity to write this column.

My grandma Lee was right. Life is what you make it, and it really is all about the baste of gratitude we can use to make life good.  Have a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving!

Leesa Jones is a Washington native and the co-founder and co-executive director of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum.