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November 21, 2001
Citizens of Maysville aren't ridiculous enough
By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
November 21, 2001
Thanksgiving is for forgiving
Thomas Wolf, the North Carolina author who wrote "You Can't Go Home Again," was wrong. You can go home again, and that's where I am this week.
I'm home for Thanksgiving. It's a trip I've made-oh, I guess 50 times or more-since I joined the Navy in 1941 and left home for good.
But that's not quite right, is it? You never leave home for good. You can always go back. Leastwise, I hope you can. If you can't, I wonder if it was ever home in the first place.
My home is McLemoresville, Tenn., population 311 if you count dogs, cats and chickens. McLey (that's what we call it for short) is a place, and that is what I came back to. But I came back to more than a place. I also came back to family-what's left of it. And I came back to friends-what's left of them.
And I am back in time this week, back to 1927 or '28, back to when I was 4 or 5 years old, back to my very earliest memory. Thanksgiving is for remembering, too.
I couldn't have been more than 5. It was a cool autumn evening. It was exactly 73 years ago today. (Just kidding, folks; my memory's not that good.)
Anyway, a bunch of us kids were gathered around a campfire toasting marshmallows. As always happens, one of the kids got his marshmallow too close to the fire. He accidentally touched his flaming delicacy to my sweater. It was one of those hairy, fluffy angora sweaters that were popular back in those days.
Well, the goat hair and fluff exploded in a flash, and my beautiful angora sweater (I remember it was brand new) was reduced to its bare base. My eyebrows and hair were singed. That's all.
That not only is my very earliest memory. It was the first of many times in my long life that I escaped death. (I am looking forward to asking my old friends-the two or three left-if they remember, too).
Why do we remember things like that? Near-death experiences do have a way of staying with us.
And why, at this Thanksgiving season, am I remembering the time I wished I were dead? Not literally, but the mental and emotional kind of death that makes you want to crawl in a hole and pull the hole in after you.
On Thanksgiving Day, 2001, why am I still remembering the awful thing I did on the eve of Christmas, 1943?
I guess it's because I keep thinking and hoping-yes, knowing!-that Thanksgiving is for forgiving.
I know that Mama forgave me. I never asked her to, and she never said she did. But mamas, more than others in the family, were born with forgiving hearts.
And I don't doubt that God forgave me. Yes, I asked Him, and I claimed His promise that He would.
And over time I have been able to forgive myself.
But forget? No.
After 58 years, home again, I still remember. And Mama won't be there to hear me say I'm sorry. I wish I had told her...while there was still time.
I guess all of us have said or written things we wish we had not said or written. Oh, how we wish we could take them back.
Unfortunately, our words-especially the bad ones-are like a pair of ill-fitting jeans that we have worn and dirtied. We bought them on sale, and the sale was final. No way can we return them. Likewise, we are stuck with our words. For good or for evil, they are with us forever.
This Thanksgiving morning I am remembering some evil, harmful words that I wrote to my Mama a long time ago. Funny, but I am also remembering that old song the Mills Brothers sang a long time ago: "You Always Hurt the One You Love."
It was a letter in answer to one I had received from her just before Christmas, 1943.
She and Daddy and my brother and sister had been to Huntington, the county seat of Carroll County and my old stomping ground nine miles up the road from McLey. (That is where my girl lived. My, how I miss her!)
The folks had eaten at The Pig Cafe, my favorite hangout, seen a war movie at the Carroll Theater, and had a good time.
I was homesick, frustrated, depressed and engaged in a real war in the filthy, dirty North African theater. I was not having a good time.
And so I unloaded on the family. I let it all hang out. I described in detail the conditions under which I existed-not lived, existed. I went on and on about how different my life was from theirs, how great it must be to eat at The Pig, see a movie, and have fun. I told them in no uncertain terms that I didn't want to hear about the fun they were having at home. At that moment I didn't think I would ever go home again. Thomas Wolf was right.
I dropped the V-mail in the slot, and immediately my heart ached for Mama. Oh, how I wished my arm had been a rubber snake so I could reach in there and take it back. But I could not.
I don't know for sure, but Mama probably cried for days over that letter. But she never mentioned it. She lived to be 97 years old, and not a word. She didn't have to say anything. I knew how badly I had hurt her. She never brought it up because she didn't want to hurt me. I know she loved me anyhow. They call it unconditional love. What it is is mother's love.
Yes, I have been forgiven, by my Mama and by my God-and finally by myself. But words, once spoken or written, are indelibly imprinted upon our minds and stored in our broken hearts.
There may be a message here somewhere. I, you, we-all of us-need to be more careful with our words. If we've said or written something to someone that is offensive, ugly, harmful or evil, we need to ask that someone to forgive us-if he or she is still alive. We need to say we are sorry-before it is too late.
And we need to forgive ourselves. Let's make this Thanksgiving Day a day for forgiving.
To forgive, and to be forgiven-what greater blessings are there?
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.
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