Sunday, November 27, 2005

Free Jesus, a butter churn, and a window frame
What do these three things have in common? Thanksgiving.

My Thanksgiving was good. Of course, it wasn't quite the same as tacos in Costa Rica last year with Friend A. But, I'm glad to say my Thanksgiving was good this year. I spent it with my family. And, with almost all of my good friends, including the Small One who was home from NYC for a visit.

I drove myself the six hours to my Mamaw's house on Thanksgiving day. I have my issues with road trips, but truth be told, I enjoy this drive. It holds memories.

I've made the trip so many times, I no longer need a map. I just go. I know where to stop for food and gas, and where NOT to stop for food and gas. I know where the good Slurpees are, and where all the state troopers are. I know the speed limits for every small town between Monroe and Vidalia, and that being the white girl in a fancy black Jeep with Texas plates, I will absolutely get a ticket if I am caught in any of those small towns going one mile over the posted speed limit. Those cops are just waiting for drivers like me.

My favorite stretch of road is right after Bossier City passing Barksdale Airforce Base. It's an ugly stretch of road, and nothing special. But, I remember many family roadtrips past the base. We would always stare out the window hoping to see something cool and Air Force-y fly overhead. We rarely saw anything.

But, during one trip on our way home my parents spotted something flying over the trees. We pulled the car over and got out to stare at the top of the trees. And, this was the moment I learned the the Stealth bomber is not stealthy because it is quiet. A HUGE Stealth bomber came roaring over the trees, flying directly over our heads. It was a cool moment. And it was the last road trip we took as a family before my sister died. It was just a few years ago. That stretch of road is special. I still look for Air Force-y thing flying overhead.

I watch the road, too.

These six hours on the road alone are much needed solace and control of the volume around me before arriving to two days of nonstop loud. I sometimes wonder if my sister wasn't right when she used to tell me I was adopted. I still wonder how I fit in to all the chatty, outgoing, friendly people in my family. I love to be there, and I love each of them. But I am quiet, withdrawn, and it is usually all I can do to focus quietly on the room when my family gathers. I'm easily overwhelmed by all the activity and conversation.

It's amazing to me how families work. The differences - personalities, and all - yet there we are sharing special occasions and loving each other anyway. We find common ground.

This year there were just 7 of us, but no less than 37 conversations going on at the same time. As usual. The TV is always on, but only slightly loud enough to be heard for anyone who might be paying attention to it and can manage to decipher what is going on over the loud choir of voices and conversations. I'm pretty sure more stories were told to me than I actually heard, but not for a lack of trying to catch everything going on around me.

We even had a visit from my uncle, who technically speaking, is no longer actually my uncle since he is no longer married to my mother's sister. But, for most of my life he was my uncle. He still keeps in touch with my mom and my Mamaw, and truthfully, we like him better now. We love his new wife. They are family. They came by for Thanksgiving.

It was familiar. It was tiring. It was good.

Friday, my mom, my Mamaw, and I went shopping, starting with antique stores in the downtown section of Natchez. Downtown is mostly made up of abandoned buildings, some of which are starting to be rebuilt and refurbished. My mom or my Mamaw can remember what most of the buildings used to look like and what they were used for. "Antique Row" now consists of a few antique stores, most of which were closed for the holiday. I love wandering in this old part of town. Louisiana and Mississippi in and of themselves are like stepping back into time. But these old parts of a very historical city are fascinating to me.

I love antique shopping. I love old stuff. Old stuff has meaning and stories, even if I don't know what those stories are. In one store, I found some old window frames. For as long as I've lived in my house, I've been searching for the perfect thing to hang over my couch. I've never been able to settle on anything. I've looked a few times for old window frames that I could clean up and hang as something unique. I found some in this shop, likely from a local building that was torn down.

But my Mamaw told me that my uncle probably had something similar at his house. He collects things. Everything. You never know what you might find there. I decided not to buy a frame in a store. I'd see what he had, and I could come back to the store if he didn't have what I was looking for.

In another section of the store, I found a camouflage Bible. This I found to be extremely interesting. It was old, but not antique. First, do we want to hide Jesus? Camouflage Him? I think not. Second, I opened the cover to see how much it cost, and it said "free". I checked several other books and they were marked 25 cents. But the Bible did appear to be marked free.

I had to have this free, camouflage Bible.

But, I didn't want to leave the store with the only free piece of merchandise in the place. That felt a little weird to me. So, I bought an old metal maple syrup container. I thought it might make a nice trash can in my spare bedroom. I purchased the trash can, and I got Jesus for free. Seemed right.

Later, back at my Mamaw's house, she told me she wanted me to take her butter churn. She's had the butter churn for as long as I can remember. It was her mother's churn, and her mother actually used to use it to churn butter. My sister and I used to use it as a toy of some sort. I don't really recall how we played with a butter churn. But I do remember it was in my grandparents' old house (the one next door to where my Mamaw lives now), and the churn sat next to the desk which held the ceramic frog where my Papaw kept pennies and butterscotches. (How's that for a weird sentence?)

I imagine I played with the butter churn because it was close to the pennies and the butterscotches. It's all a kid really wants - candy and coins.

Now, the churn has come home with me. I won't churn butter. But it has stories and memories, and it is old and cool. And, it looks great in my house.

As we ate dinner Friday night, my Mamaw asked my uncle if he had any window frames and that I would be interested in them if he did. He did. My uncle is great in that he will do just about anything for anyone, anytime. He asked me how big the frame needed to be. I showed him some very exact arm-length measurements. He said to come over in the morning and he would get some out for me to look at. Which meant he would have the perfect frame picked out for me by the time I got there the next day.

We showed up at his house the next morning, and even though he was in the middle of chopping up a giant tree in his front yard that had been struck by lightning, he stopped to frame shop with me. He did already have the perfect frame picked out, much better than any of the frames I saw in the shop the day before. It had four window panes, complete with glass in the windows, and looked to be the perfect size.

Then, he offered me some stained glass that he just happened to have on hand. He showed me sheets and sheets of glass in a variety of colors. I picked two blue pieces. He cut them for me to fit two of the panes, wrapped them, stuck the whole thing in my car for me, and when I offered to pay him for the glass he said it was my Christmas present.

This thing I have been looking for to fit over my couch for nigh on two years? My uncle just happened to have it in his house. The window frame came from the bathroom window in his own, very old house when he redid the windows. So, now his window will sit in my house. It's old, and it has a story.

I came home with a few other Christmas gifts from my Mamaw. But the best ones were the free ones.

Free Jesus.
Free butter churn.
Free window frame.
Free time with friends and family.

A Happy Thanksgiving.

I am thankful.


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