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Family tradition centers around giving

EDITOR’S NOTE: Below is a column from Herald & Tribune Cartoonist Marcy Hawley on her Thanksgiving memories both in the U.S. and afar. From Hawley and the H&T, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!


Special to the H&T

The old house on the narrow alley like street in Charleston had been the scene of hundreds of Thanksgiving dinners and our family Thanksgiving in 1956 would be no different from any Holiday dinner my parents hosted; A huge gathering of family, friends, and strangers joining in gratitude for our blessings of the year.

If there was anything my father insisted, it was that no one should be alone at Thanksgiving or Christmas and that our home always had room to add another seat at the table.

The “guest” list included our family, and in Charleston everyone is related, young cadets from the Citadel with no place to go, merchant seamen from far off lands, and anyone else my father learned needed to be with a family on this special day.

My maternal grandparents arrived from Georgia ladened with country ham, fruit cakes, pecan pies, all lovingly prepared by my grandmother. My paternal grandmother was well-known for her Charleston red rice, oyster dressing and macaroni and cheese. My mother was in charge of the turkey, usually two, which my father relished carving! The dinner table seemed to sag under the weight of this harvest feast.

Usually there were no less than 30 to 40-plus guests. Laughter, stories and good cheer were definitely on the menu along with a meal that nourished not only our bodies, but our souls.  

Strangers became friends as there were no barriers of race nor nationalities in our home. My family was sharing what they had been given.  

As a teenager I asked my father why he felt compelled to gather so many, especially strangers, into our home to share a meal during holidays and I’ll never forget his words: “I hope and pray that some day, no matter where you are, if you need help or a hands up someone will be there for you.” 

And yes, during the 28 years of traveling and living abroad for my husband’s Army career, I am humbled when I remember what an important part strangers played in my life, strangers who were a brief chance encounter and those who became friends.  I also remember Thanksgivings away from the United States.

1974 found us in the “burbs” of Athens, Greece. Instead of turkey, we roasted a lamb in our backyard with our Greek neighbors. Included on the menu along with green bean and sweet potato casseroles were moussaka and spanakopita and of course, lamb! We ate outside under a grape arbor…there was much wine, laughter, and dancing and yes, a few broken plates!

Thanksgiving dinner 1989 and 1990, in S. Korea was spent in a Mess Hall with 3,500 lonely American soldiers, but the turkey dinner, with all the trimmings brought a bit of cheer to those so far from home and family. A few days later we prepared a typical Thanksgiving dinner for our kind, generous Korean friends who where interested in our customs and culture.

2020 will be a Thanksgiving like no other.  My home will not be filled with the laughter of family and friends nor will I add the four leaves to the dining table to accommodate our usual Thanksgiving feast. This year David Philips, Jeff Dupre and I will still prepare a huge turkey and ham dinner with all the trimmings, but instead of gathering around my table, we will deliver the meal in a carry-out container to each of  our guests. We want each friend to share our feast and know we are together in spirit. I have gratitude for this year and hope for 2021.

In 1990, R.I.C. and I opened the doors to Hawley House Breakfast and for 23 years hosted many strangers, many whom became cherished  friends. I always remember Hebrews 13:2: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: For thereby some have entertained angels unaware.”  

I carry this verse in my heart, words which resonated with my father. How many angels have we entertained?