I love this little stretch of year between now and Christmas.  Everything is festive & there is so much to eat and do.  I have a big ole’ extended family and I realize what a blessing it is to spend the holidays with all of them.  I am 38 years old and my family Thanksgiving tradition at my Aunt Jean’s is all I have ever known.  I have been going to Aunt Jean and Uncle Randolph’s for Thanksgiving Day my whole life.  Uncle Randolph is my grandmother’s little brother and he married the greatest southern treasure in my Aunt Jean.  My Daddy often compares her to Melanie from the movie “Gone with the Wind.”  Aunt Jean is gracious and kind & she loves Jesus & loves people. She is also an incredible cook.  Each year before our meal, we all gather in her living room and she reads scripture and reminds us of all we have to be thankful for.  Seeing her stand in the living room with her apron and bible as she leads our family in a devotion is forever etched in my memory and is something I will always cherish.

This big ole’ family all started many moons ago when my great grandmother, Big Mama married my Pa-Pa.  Their names were Rosa and Leonard Taylor but they were more affectionately known around town as Big Mama and “Slim”.  I never knew my great grandfather but I have heard plenty of stories.  He was a giant of a man towering over most people in his broad, sturdy frame.  He worked at the local chalk mine to provide for his family and he loved to umpire men’s softball games at the local field.  I have always heard he favored Uncle Randolph’s team and they seldom lost with Slim behind the plate.  Big Mama had a much slighter frame (contradictory to her name) and was quite short but she had the biggest heart in the whole world.  I was fortunate enough to know Big Mama for the first 15 years of my life.  It felt like her table could feed the whole world.  She made the best biscuits I have ever tasted and everything from her kitchen was made from scratch.  I have memories of staying with her and helping her pour, sift and chop in her little kitchen.  There was always lots of sweet tea drinkin’ and front porch sittin’ at her house & even as a kid I knew it was something special.

Big Mama and Pa-Pa had five children: Rhodesia (my grandmother), Jerome, Randolph, Evelyn, and Charlotte.  My grandmother married and had two children, Randolph married and had three children, Evelyn married and had two children and Charlotte married and had two children.  All of those children had children and now those babies have their own babies & we are now five generations deep.  There are typically around 40 of us at Aunt Jean’s on the years that everyone can come. We would probably have a few more but one brother was lost along the way.  My great uncle Jerome was in the Navy and in 1958 his plane crashed overseas.  18 were found alive, 6 were dead and four were never found.  Jerome was one of the four and after two weeks he was declared dead.  Even though they never recovered his body they said no one could survive in those frigid waters for long.  I am sure my Big Mama lost a piece of heart the day the military officials showed up at her doorstep, on the very porch where she had rocked all her babies and would eventually rock great-grand-babies.  I will always remember sitting in the pew of Calvary Baptist Church for Big Mama’s funeral and the preacher using her bible as a visual aid.  That bible was slap worn out.  The leather was cracked, pages were tattered and torn from all the turning and the margins were full of her writing, detailing prayers she prayed and scriptures she prayed over her family and friends.  I remember thinking that day that I wanted to leave a legacy like that for my family.  I am so thankful that prayers are eternal and they don’t die with the physical bodies of those who prayed them.  I am sure that some of Big Mama’s prayers are still being fulfilled today in her children, grandchildren, great and great great grandchildren.

Tomorrow there will be giant spread of soul food that I am sure would make Big Mama proud.  The grands and great grands always joke that when Big Mama’s kids can’t cook anymore that we will have an assortment of pasta salads, broccoli casseroles and Fresh Market desserts.  Hopefully the hereditary cooking skills of the Taylor family will have seeped into our bones by the time it is our turn to head up the Thanksgiving feast.  My sister and I learned how to make Ma-Ma’s famous dressing last night so that’s a start:)

Life is short and life is sweet.  Hug your loved ones tight just because you can, cherish all the moments and spend some time on your knees thanking the Lord for every blessing.  You will probably be pleasantly surprised when you name them one by one.  God Bless you all and Happy Thanksgiving!

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