Every few years, my mom’s side of the family, deemed the rowdy Andersons, gather at my uncle John’s log cabin nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. An architect and engineer, Uncle John designed and built this rugged masterpiece as a getaway home for himself, his wife, and their daughter. Using the foundation and bare bones of an original settler’s home, he reconstructed a grander and more comfortable version of a log cabin.
As I envision Thanksgiving Day in this cabin, warm feelings of nostalgia wash over me. The crisp smell of pine compliments the wafting aroma of nutmeg and butternut squash. Aunts bustle and bump into each other as they scramble to mash up potatoes, roll cheese balls and pull chocolate pecan pies out of the oven. I stand in the corner of the kitchen popping shavings of turkey into my mouth and asking futilely if I can help. Of course I don’t want to, but I can’t pull myself away from the mouth-watering feast. So I bounce from one foot to the other, watching as seasoned cooks conjure up sweet country ham and corn relish.
“Everyone to the kitchen—it’s ready!” Someone walks around to each room hollering. Uncles and cousins tumble inside laughing and wheezing from a lively game of football in the field bordering the cabin. In his quiet and steady voice, my dad prays over the food and expresses his thankfulness for family. Eyes peek open during the prayer to survey the array of scrumptious dishes. “Amen.” In a flash, a train of people forms, and we file along the counters, scooping here and grabbing there.
During previous Thanksgivings, I always resented being placed at the children’s table, but now I make a beeline for it, knowing that they’ll be no talk of politics or the economy. However, throughout the rest of meal, I mentally prepare my answers to the inevitable series of questions: “Senior at JMU…PR and creative writing…I want to be a copywriter…no I haven’t been into photography since middle school.” My younger siblings and cousins shove food into their mouths and slurp red punch from plastic cups.
Allie, one of my cousins who’s five years my junior, never fails to stare at me the entire time and ask questions like, “Have you seen The Ring? Because I have,” and, “Do you like go out with your friends all the time since you’re in college?”
I force my brain to painfully remember the high school mindset and answer, “Yes, it’s total freedom.” She just smirks. I choke a little into my punch thinking about the overwhelming responsibilities and adjustments that also come along with college.
As the afternoon sun wanes, someone pushes us outside for some “family raking,” so we groan and rake dried leaves into piles until football comes on TV, and we all dash back inside to claim spots on the burnt red sofa or bear rug. Eventually, each family heads back to their respected motels and recharges for Friday, which always consists of devouring leftovers and pushing over dead trees in the surrounding woods.
Reflecting on past memories makes me long to creak open that log cabin door, feel the rough oak beneath my fingertips and listen as my relatives burst into applause as a touchdown is made. In one week, I’ll be savoring the old stories, cherished moments and faithful love that drifts along the foundation of this cabin tucked between mountains and seeping with warm smells and rolling laughter.