Jen Jeffrey: Thanks For The Memories

Monday, November 25, 2013 - by Jen Jeffrey
Jen Jeffrey
Jen Jeffrey

“Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go…” Remember that song?

My sisters and I would sing it when we would go to Murray to see our grandparents. I was very little, so I don’t remember much. I just knew that we didn’t go on a river or through the woods. I do remember feeling the ‘old blue goose’ station wagon vibrating as we passed over the ridges on the interstate that slowed cars heading for the toll booth. It also made a noise that I liked to mimic each time we passed over one, “Brrrmp! …Brrrmp! …Brrrmp!” and Daddy would roll down the window giving us girls in the back a gust of cold air.

Daddy would toss the coins into the lit up bucket and the arm would lift up letting us pass through. He never missed the bucket and I was always proud of him for that. I knew I could never make all those coins go straight in that bucket without missing it. Three of us girls would sit in the back seat and the lucky one got to sit in the extra space in the back. The small back seat faced the back of the car and we could see the cars behind us.

When leaving for our trip and getting into the car, we all wanted to sit behind Daddy.

Why?

Because when you are four little chatty girls playing and eventually picking on each other, as soon as a squabble broke out Daddy would reach his huge strong hand back and swat at us and he couldn’t reach whoever was sitting directly behind him.

Back before the seatbelt laws were in place, we kids thought nothing of bouncing around in the car and causing a ruckus and, when we bumped into the back of the driver’s seat, Daddy had every right to begin swatting at us getting us all scared that he would pull over and finish the job.

Mama would feel sorry for us and just give us a sympathetic look. I liked sitting in the back with my sisters the best and not being the one who sat all the way in the back, but we switched seating arrangements at each stop to just make it fair. When it was my turn to sit in the very back, I was bored. My dolls only held my attention for a very little bit. I liked being with people. So while my sisters were playing cards or reading and I was told to ‘take a nap’ …I found people who would give me attention – in the car behind me.

I couldn’t talk to them and I didn’t know sign language so the only thing I could do was to look adorable and get them to smile and laugh at me. I was good at making faces - I had learned that from watching the Carol Burnett show. I would have my own little show in that back seat and my audience couldn’t help but watch me.

When we came to the half-way point at Beaver Dam we got out to stretch our legs and to have a potty break. At three years old, I didn’t have a trained bladder so when I couldn’t ‘go’ - I just couldn’t go. And… when I had to go… well, I HAD to go. I will never forget the moment when I had to go - far between the next rest stop.

Daddy had to pull the car over to the side of the busy freeway. It was so scary listening to the vehicles swoosh by and to even feel our car sway each time one passed us. Mama told my sisters to hand me to her outside of the car and I was passed along into Mama’s arms. She tried her best to make it private for me by keeping me in the middle of the two right car doors.

Holding me out so that I didn’t piddle on my clothes or her hands, I felt my bare tushy vulnerable to the blackness of the night and I was frightened of the bears that might take a chomp out of it!

When we finally got to my grandparents’ house, we girls stayed in the bedroom next to the wall of bookshelves. We crammed as many of us into the bed that we could and, as we grew bigger, it went from possibly having three in the bed, to having two in the bed and whoever was left had a fluffy sleeping bag in the floor.

I tried to sleep in the sleeping bag once, but it was too scary. I could not see the monsters in the dark, but I knew that they could see me. As a little tyke, I usually got my way. All I had to do was to blare my siren cry and I was quickly hushed while my sisters gave in to me. There were advantages to being the smallest sister.

I remember breakfast at Mama Grace and Daddy Bill’s house. Mama Grace made the best country ham and red-eye gravy and biscuits and I haven’t tasted anything like them since. I loved being at my dad’s parents the best because they had a toy closet (I was a very shallow three-year-old). What was the most fun about the toys is that they were my dad’s toys when he was a boy. I knew that they were special. My favorite toys were the stuffed penguins that had rubber beaks and feet. They were almost my size and it was fun to dance with them.

I don’t remember the turkey dinner at that set of grandparents’ house, but when we went over to Mama’s parents, I do remember having my Grandmama’s dressing. It was the best! It was cut square and solid like a brownie, but moist. And the giblet gravy that saturated it is what made it so good. I also loved my Grandmama’s light and fluffy homemade yeast rolls.

With no toys at Grandmama and Granddaddy’s house, I got bored easily. I was always one to go exploring (and I still am) and as long as it was daylight, I wasn’t afraid. (I have mentioned before about finding my Aunt’s chocolate ex-lax in her suitcase and eating all of it). 

When my sisters and I were each married and bringing our thanksgiving dishes to Mama’s house, I always got stuck with bringing the deviled eggs. I hated making those things! The first year it was fun and I was excited to be counted as a grown-up who got to make a dish for our thanksgiving dinner. But the following year and the year after that… and the year after THAT – it got old.

Finally, I talked them into letting me bake a ham. I learned how to make the best ham you would ever put in your mouth and now it is requested that I make it every year. I don’t mind making the ham at all, because everyone always raves about it and it makes me feel that ‘little Jenny’ accomplished something. It was always hard being the youngest when it came to feeling validated as a grown up by my older sisters. They knew more, they did more and it was a lot for me to come up with my own special thing. Even though my sister Jill was the one who taught me about slow cooking a good shank ham overnight, it was something I owned as ‘mine’ and I love baking it.

When our children grew up, married and moved away, Thanksgiving with my sisters would be sporadic. We get together when we can – usually at my sister Angie’s house.

Many of my friends have been doing something on Facebook called “30 days of thanks” where they will list something each day of the month in which they are thankful for. I did that last year but had only gotten to 22 when I decided to put them in my column. Since 22 is my favorite number I thought I would do that again, but just for this week’s story.

 1. Of course, the first thing I am thankful for is my faith, my family and my friends. That is the most important in ‘who I am’ to have the love and trust that I do with these three important things.

 2. And, of course, the second thing is my job. It isn’t just about the income… it is a big part of who I am. It helped to create an identity and it helped me to be other’s voices and to share positive things or to touch people or make them laugh. It gave me purpose, confidence and self-worth. I have met some amazing people and I have the most wonderful mentor anyone could ever have.

Mentioning those were a given. The rest are fun things to change up what I had mentioned last year. Since I am grateful for each new day – there are so many things to be thankful for – even the small things.

 3. I am thankful for the wisdom God has given me in order to make good decisions and to learn from my mistakes.

4. I am thankful that it isn’t a full moon every week – this month’s was pretty crazy.

 5. I am thankful to wake up naturally without an alarm.

 6. I am thankful for horse nuzzles.

 7. I am thankful for online socializing or else I would never get to be social.

 8. I am thankful to have a bed all to myself.

 9. I am thankful for the Waltons on INSP every day and I wish I could live like that.

10. I am thankful to be off the diet coke and coffee habit (with an occasional splurge).

11. I am thankful for my keyboard – it is a friend that does my talking for me when I can’t speak the words that I feel.

12. I am thankful for the feeling a Christmas tree gives each time you plug in the lights.

13. I am thankful for God’s provisions for another year and excited about what He has in store for my future.

14. I am thankful for risks and to find the courage to step out when others say, “I can’t”.

15. I am thankful for comfort food. I know, I know… I will get back on track but, while I am not dating, a big cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows is great to keep warm with.

16. I am thankful for my GPS. It makes me fearless to get out and go.

17. I am thankful for vision. The ideas that I have for my life have many possibilities and I love the options I have to pursue them.

18. I am thankful for Coach Butch Jones. I think we are heading for something pretty great in the next year.

19. I am thankful for a wonderful year with the weather. I have loved the rain, the beautiful spring and summer and the glorious fall we have had. I am even excited about having a good productive winter. I have felt alive with each season’s change and welcome them no matter which I prefer best.

20. I am thankful for hugs from my family and from my friends. I crave ‘touch’ and I can’t live without it. People have no idea what it means to me when they hold my hand or give me hug.

21. I am thankful for forgiveness. When I fail God or disappoint someone or make a mistake, I am glad that we are not thrown away.

22. I am thankful for my inner child and that she has the courage to come out to play.

There are so many things to be thankful for and last year’s list still sums up a lot of the important things, but even the simple things make me grateful. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving this year even for those who won’t have a traditional celebration – I hope you find your heart grateful and pass on a smile to another.

Last years’ list (in case you missed it) - http://www.chattanoogan.com/2012/11/19/238867/Jen-Jeffrey-22-Days-Of-Thanksgiving.aspx

jen@jenjeffrey.com


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