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I’ve already had my Thanksgiving

If a holiday is more of a state of mind or an atmosphere than it is an actual date on the calendar, I more or less feel as if I’ve already experienced Thanksgiving 2004.

Last weekend, I got to see my entire family, including nieces, nephew, nephew-in-law and step great-niece – a rare thing indeed these days.

We all sat together at church on Sunday, filling two pews and putting a big smile on my mother’s face.

Afterwards, we all sat together in the fellowship hall and enjoyed one of those potluck meals Baptists excel at so well (it’s one of those events where my brother-in-law curses his diabetes – that dessert table brimming with peach cobbler, pecan pie, cheesecake and banana pudding is enough to do it).

Back at Mama’s house, we talked and reminisced. My niece’s stepdaughter, Hope, a lively and pretty little seven-year-old, played with the family dogs the way her step mom had once played with Mama’s and Daddy’s farmhouse pets. Can it be twenty years have passed since those days?

Debbie, my oldest sister and Heather’s mom, took Hope down the hall and showed her the family photo gallery – the baby photos, studio portraits, school day pix, dance school shots, candid family portraits I took – and I smile as I listen to Deb’s running commentary while I rock in Mama’s chair.

Daddy’s chair sits right beside it, a matching John Deere-green rocker recliner. It was the very chair where my father once sat and entertained young Hope by flipping out his dentures, back in the days before the stroke and his long, steady, sad decline.

Heather asked Mama if she could take something of Daddy’s home with her to Birmingham: his set of dominoes. &uot;Remember how many games we used to play – and how aggravated he’d get when I kept beating him?&uot; my niece said with a grin.

Oh, yes, I remember.

My nieces and nephews are all grown up now. By the time you read this, Shannon, Deb’s middle daughter, will be in South Korea where she is starting a new job. Debbie was driving her to Atlanta Sunday afternoon in anticipation of an early flight Monday morning.

I watched Heather and Shannon embrace for a long time – one fair head, one dark one, both tearful. My little Heather now has the faintest of tummies – what I’ve heard termed a &uot;baby bump&uot;. Come late next spring, it look like there will be a new addition to the family.

&uot;It’s been a long time since we got to buy cute baby stuff and toys and things,&uot; my sister Sara said with an anticipatory grin.

I am thankful for all the good family memories I have. I admit I am looking forward to making some new ones.

And when Heather plays dominoes with the &uot;old folks&uot; at her church on Thursday nights, I hope she feels the spirit of a rotund fellow in overalls and a feed cap right beside her, stirring up that &uot;bone yard.&uot;

I like to think Daddy is enjoying our family times, too.

Angie Long is the lifestyles reporter for the Greenville Advocate and can be reached at 383-9302, ext. 132 or via email at angie.long@greenvilleadvocate.com.