Sunday, November 25, 2018

Nov. 25, 2018, column:
Blessings spread beyond the table

By Mike Haynes
            My sister pretty much has Mom’s chocolate pie down. She makes pecan pie like Mom did, too, but the chocolate was the hardest to replicate.
            Our mother was known for several things, including playing the organ at church, but her cooking prowess may have been her biggest claim to fame. For sure at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
            I’ve had chocolate pie made by others that tasted great, but – and I know I’m biased – Mom’s is up there one a higher plane. I haven’t tasted a piece anywhere else that had quite the same slight creaminess while still being firm and flavorful.
This chocolate pie was made in 2009 by the columnist's mother,
Joyce Haynes. (Photo by Mike Haynes)
            Sister Sheri has taken over a lot of what Mom provided for her family and friends, even to the point of her chocolate pie bringing $200 at a charity auction and delivering pies to shut-in friends. And other family members contribute to filling in for their mother who died five years ago. In this case, maybe it doesn’t take a village, but it takes a family.
            Thanksgiving is one of those times when it’s obvious.  Mom used to be firmly in charge of the turkey, the macaroni and cheese with crushed crackers on top, the green bean casserole and so many more side dishes. Oh, and the dressing. Everybody likes the dressing they grew up with, and Sheri kind of has that down, too.
            But it isn’t just Sheri. It takes two or three sisters-in-law to make up for Mom not being there – plus my brother Sam, who was the only one of us boys who grew up helping in the kitchen. He still does, proving that a former all-district athlete and coach also can make cream cheese dip and wash dishes.
            We manage to keep holidays going almost like when Mom was here.
            It’s the same in the community. My sister doesn’t play the organ at church (although she could), but she follows in her mother’s footsteps by leading young kids in singing and joining half a dozen or more church women in preparing and serving meals for funerals and other events.
            That’s where we see that it isn’t just us. In the Texas Panhandle, we still have some families who have been in their towns for generations. At our hometown, just one of several examples is Rose, who’s about my sister’s age. She might be at the church more than the preacher, just like her mother, Mary, was, helping with those funerals, making announcements on Sunday mornings and getting her kids involved. And before Mary, her mother was doing the same thing, and at least one more generation before that helped keep that congregation going.
            Today, so many children grow up and leave for larger cities and better opportunities, which is understandable. I ended up only 70 miles away from home, but because I’m not a good cowboy and my skills have been better suited elsewhere, I have to drive an hour or so to see family and hometown friends.
            I feel blessed to be that close. When I do make that drive for a football game or a wedding or funeral – or Thanksgiving or Christmas – I love seeing family and community traditions continuing.
            It’s not unlike the Christian faith being passed down for 2,000 years – and the Jewish faith on which it’s built for longer than that. From Jesus to Peter and Paul to the early church fathers to medieval monks to Martin Luther to John Wesley to Fanny Crosby to Mother Teresa, just to mention a few, God’s message continues to be passed on – by those big names but also by mothers and fathers quietly handing the baton to the next generation.
            This Thanksgiving, we had about 25 of our family at the 68-year-old house where Mom cooked and practiced the organ and raised five kids and where Dad still hosts us. We sat on benches at the same big kitchen table with the overflow in the dining room, and it wasn’t much different from when I was a kid.
            Not everyone has that kind of continuity, but wherever a person finds love and acceptance and maybe some turkey, they can experience some of the blessed Thanksgiving tradition.
               Even if they don’t have the best chocolate pie in the world.
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            Mike Haynes taught journalism at Amarillo College from 1991 to 2016. He can be reached at Go to for other recent columns.