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It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and sing praises to Your name, O Most High. It is good to tell of Your loving-kindness in the morning, and of how faithful You are at night, with harps, and with music of praise. For You have made me glad by what You have done, O Lord. I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands. Psalm 92:1-4 (NLV)

Over the river and thru the wood, to grandfather’s house we go;

Ah the trip to Grandfather’s house! I grew up in a family of five boys. The whole story of genetics was true. In some ways you could see we were all brothers, in other ways we were different as night and day. Music was a big part of my growing up. Five boys, each who could sing a different part, yet to my dismay didn’t sing nearly often enough because one of us didn’t really like to sing.

Our song came from Jesus, our motivation came from mom. Most of the churches Dad ministered to were small so a pastor’s wife who could play piano was truly an asset.

I used to love to watch mom’s fingers glide up and down the keyboard. I was especially painful to watch the last 25 years of her life as arthritis kept her from the one joy she had: music.

The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh, thru the white and drifted snow, oh!

It was full 90 minute drive to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house. Early in our journey we drove across the St. Croix River and almost as on cue would start to sing this song. There were years we drove that road on glare ice or drifted snow, other years when the weather was warm and pleasant (by northern Wisconsin/Minnesota standards that is).

Over the river and thru the wood, Oh, how the wind does blow!

This was in the years before Black Friday. No respecting store owner or gas station attendant would think of making workers come to work on Thanksgiving Day! So the trip had to be planned out to make sure bathroom breaks and gas stops weren’t necessary. Snacks? Maybe some cereal in a container of some sort. Hand-held video games? DVD players? Sorry. Not even a decent radio station. We were ‘forced’ to spend that entire time singing, talking or enjoying the beauty of God’s creation.

Ah, the things technology and free enterprise have stolen from us…

It stings the toes, and bites the nose, as over the ground we go.

Grandma could never figure out why we always asked to change the channel on the small black and white TV in the corner. She’d be irritated when we’d insist on watching “A bunch of grown men pushing a little ball up and down a field (football) when we could watch real sports (World Wide Wrestling). This in the days of Vern Gagne, The Crusher and the like.

Over the river and thru the wood, to have a first-rate play;

Then there were the football games we played ourselves. Everyone played. Young and old. The driveway was one goal. The lilac bushes the other. The house was out of bounds (as was the outhouse and yes it was ‘in working order’) on one side, Grandpa’s field was the other.

Oh, hear the bell ring, “Ting-a-ling-ling!”

The round oak table in the dining room seemed enormous when I was very young, but seemed to shrink as we grew older and the family grew larger. More and more of the older cousins would be relegated to the living room to eat (no you can’t turn on the TV. This is meal time). But we never took a bite until Grandpa gave thanks.

Grandpa. An old Swedish immigrant who worked hard to build his farmstead along the RumRiver. In his early years he’d go into town and drink too much. His children knew not to cross Grandpa when he’d been drinkin’. Then, he found Jesus. I can still hear his voice tearfully praise his Jesus for all the blessings bestowed upon him as he was surrounded by his legacy.

Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day-ay!

The food eaten. The dishes cleaned. The trip to the river taken when weather permitted. This, of course, was reserved for the ‘older cousins’ and any of us young ones they’d choose to take with us. And finally the good-bye’s, smiles by the kids (it’s been a fun day); Tears by the parents (It’s been way too long). Now, as a parent I realize the most tears were probably shed by Grandma and Grandpa when the house grew silent.

Over the river and thru the wood, Trot fast my dapple gray! Spring over the ground, like a hunting hound! For this is Thanksgiving Day.

The first part of the trip home was full of chatter. But one by one we fell asleep and the car grew silent. It had been a good day. Funny how it’s not until years later I realize how good those days really were. Oh, had I cherished the memories more, but even now they are sweet.

Down in the valley with my Savior I would go, Where the flowers are blooming and the sweet waters flow; Everywhere He leads me I would follow, follow on, Walking in His footsteps till the crown be won.

As you crest the hill going down into the small hamlet ofTaylorsFalls, MN you catch a glimpse of theSt. Croix RiverValleygoing to the south for miles. Again, as on cue, we would break out in song, singing the words of this hymn. Now days I prefer mountaintops to valleys, but I can’t drive this road without hearing our voices sing this song.

Happy Thanksgiving. May you cherish the memories of past celebrations as you build memories for the future. Cherish every second for our time here is short. Most of all, don’t forget to thank the One who made all these memories possible.

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