Talking ‘Tur-Duc-Hen’

This is my first thanksgiving without a job. November 24th was my last Sunday as pastor of the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church—I have applied for disability. In ministry for nearly 40 years, I was pastor of this Michigan church for 28 years. It’s hard leaving this position – COLD TURKEY (pun intended!). Maybe some WILD TURKEY should be on the Thanksgiving menu.

Opening up this new blog, I thought I would prepare a “remembrance” titled “Talking ‘Tur-duc-hen’. I could have said “Turkey” but this year we are surving this combination of Turkey, Duck and Hen! While it is selfishly theraputic for me to dig through some of my own memories, I hope those who may read this blog will also find time to give some thought to what Thanksgiving has meant to you. What are your memories? What memories do you hope to build for your family?

This year, our daughter and son-in-law and 10 month old grandson, Tommy, have flown in from San Franciso for this special holiday. This is an exciting time for me. I join with my wife in wanting to make this Thanksgiving special. In making this meal special, we’ve special ordered a ‘Tur-Duc-Hen’. Our son-in-law, Ken, will miss sharing this combination of tasty birds with his California family. We hope this ‘Tur-Duc-Hen’ meal will help him remember his family while building new connections with his Michigan relatives. There is a lot of personal symbolism in our serving ‘Tur-Duc-Hen’!

What traditions from our experiences with family do we want to pass on to our children and grandchildred? What new memories will we create? What a wondeful opportunity for us to think about family.

I regret not having more memories of “Turkey Day”. In all honesty, I have spent way too many years focusing more attention on “church” than family. For this I am sorry.

What memories I have as an adult are those Thanksgiving Holidays when we would take a few days of vacation to get out of town. For many years we would travel to Pittsburgh to share thanksgiving with my mother-in-law. She would always greet us after a seven hour drive with a traditional “welcome meal” that included a hot bowl of homemade soup and a chipped ham sandwich.

Before sharing our Thanksgiving feast, we would go to Westminster Presbyterian church for thanksgiving worship. This is a huge church in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. This was the church where Nancy and I were married back in 70’s I will never forget Dr. John Galbreath officiating our wedding service. My closest friends from Denver were able to make the trip! I am absolutely blessed to have a wife and family that cherishes these traditional celebrations. I wonder what my Colorado family is doing for Thanksgiving? I need to give them a call!

The few days we would visit Pittsburgh, I recall walking through the hills off Cypress Drive (when my knees still worked) with Nancy sharing her precious childhood memories. I always enjoyed time spent with my wife and daughter driving through the hills looking at all the multi-million dollar mansions. We would also find time to go to the South Hills Mall, share a meal at the Kings family resturant and if we could, my watching a movie while the girls went shopping! On many occasions Nancy’s sister and her family and my nephews would join us in Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving.

Of course, on Thanksgiving day, we enjoyed plenty of turkey and love and fellowship as family. Oh yes, one more remembrance: My mother-in-law was so interested in making sure I felt welcome when visiting Pittsburgh. For years she would go to a local bar and buy a couple of beers. She would have to purchase a whole case if she went to one of the state stores! Going into a bar was her only option in buying just one or two beers. That’s going the extra mile to keep her son-in-law happy!

Westminster Presbyterian Church was on my list for a day-after Thanksgiving visit. For many years we would find the church office the day after thanksgiving. My mother-in-law enjoyed introducing me to her church friends. She worked as a volunteer in the church library and front desk. We also spent some time in the memorial garden—the collumbarium where Nancy and I plan to have our own ashes interred. As a family, we have purchased several plots for the family, where Nancy’s parents are now both interred. May they always rest in peace!

Much more could be said about some of our visits with our Grand Rapids family – and if I recall a trip or two to Chicago for a Thanksgiving feast with them at the Union League Club. For many years we would host the Thanksgiving dinner at our house…..especially after mom, (my mother-in-law) made the move to Saginaw to live closer to us. This year we are hosting this Thanksgiving meal….Cundiff’s, Moores, Jones….a full house!

Talking Turkey! Talking Tur-duc-hen! Take time to be with family. Take time to share your memories. Where were you? What traditions were established? Share your memories as you gather around table to share a Thanksgiving meal. What new memories do you hope to build?

Look at ways to share your blessings with others. Call a few friends. Make sure the people around you aren’t alone.
Now that we are grandparents, we are establishing new traditions for our daughter and husband and grandson. I wonder if I need to go buy some beer for Ken? What will they remember the rest of their lives?

In borrowing from the blog of the Rev. John Buchanan ( former pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Chuch in Chicago, a wonderful poem by Lydia Maria Child’s. I plan to sing this with my 10 month old grandson when he comes for thanksgiving.
Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandfather’s house we go;
the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.
Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather’s house away!
We would not stop for doll or top,
for ’tis Thanksgiving Day.
Over the river, and through the wood—
oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose
as over the ground we go.
Over the river, and through the wood—
and straight through the barnyard gate,
We seem to go extremely slow,
it is so hard to wait!
Over the river, and through the wood—
When Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, “O, dear, the children are here,
bring a pie for everyone.”
Over the river, and through the wood—
now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!
The following verses appear in a “long version”:
Over the river, and through the wood,
with a clear blue winter sky,
The dogs do bark, and children hark,
as we go jingling by.
Over the river, and through the wood,
to have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring, “Ting-a-ling-ding!”,
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!
Over the river, and through the wood,
no matter for winds that blow;
Or if we get the sleigh upset
into a bank of snow
Over the river, and through the wood,
to see little John and Ann;
We will kiss them all, and play snow-ball
and stay as long as we can.
Over the river, and through the wood,
trot fast, my dapple-gray!
Spring over the ground like a hunting-hound!
For ’tis Thanksgiving Day.
Over the river, and through the wood,
Old Jowler hears our bells.
He shakes his paw, with a loud bow-wow,
and thus the news he tells.


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