Laughing in the Golden Years: Thanksgiving Thoughts


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Maryann Nunnally, Contributing Writer


By:  Maryann Nunnally

Growing up I never knew we were poor.  Mom’s huge vegetable garden and our numerous fruit trees were the canned source of our meals all year long.  The chickens we raised and the meat my father brought in from hunting meant that every meal in our home was delicious and plentiful.  I never knew what it was to be hungry or to go without food.  I remember Thanksgiving as a fabulous feast that included two roasted chickens, mashed potatoes and golden chicken gravy, my mother’s light-as-a-feather biscuits, at least three kinds of hot vegetables, and a choice of pumpkin or apple pie for dessert.  We had a kind of food wealth that I simply took for granted.  I never realized there were children in our rich nation who went to bed hungry until I met some of them.

When I retired as a public-school educator, I volunteered to tutor students in a small, poor elementary school.  One of my students was a skinny, curly-headed third grader, who was having trouble with fractions.  For days we worked on his understanding of the word problems that included adding and subtracting fractions.  One morning, the light bulb flashed, and he got it.  I was so proud of him and said, “You have worked so hard, JD, and you stayed with it until you figured it out.  I am delighted with your perseverance.  The next time I come to help you, I will bring you something to eat.  What would you like?”

Expecting him to say candy, or cookies or something sweet, I was bowled over when he said, “An apple.  I would like a big apple.”

That afternoon I purchased a bag of six large apples, and the next morning I gave them to JD.  “Gosh, Ms. N, these are more apples than I ever saw.”

The next week, JD found me in the hall and after hugging me, said, “Ms. N, them apples was the best I ever had.  Me and Sophie ate them all up.  I hid two of them so we had something to eat on Sunday.”

“Is that all you had to eat on Sunday?” I asked him.

“Yeah,” he answered.  And me and Sophie had them on Saturday, too.”

I asked the school social worker to check on JD and his little sister.

The social worker later told me that JD and his sister were not getting meals on the weekends.  They depended on free meals at school, and their alcoholic parents left the children to fend for themselves on the weekends.  However, she had given their names and address to a local group, Nourish NC, that would provide meals for JD and Sophie on weekends and holidays and all during summer vacation.

I continued to tutor JD that year and then when the school year ended, I lost track of him.  A few years later I saw JD in the public library of all places.  When he saw me, he gave me a hug and said: “Ms. Nunnally, I still remember the apples you gave me when I was in third grade.”

He replied that Nourish NC was still packing boxes for him, his sister and now a little brother.  He said, “I make our meals most of the time, and Nourish puts in food that I can fix for Sophie and Charlie. We always have food now.  Last year at Thanksgiving, we had chicken that came in a package, applesauce, potato sticks and some kind of little pies.  We really had a feast.”  I loved his description of a Thanksgiving meal that he regarded as a feast.

Nourish NC is a blessing for children who often are hungry and dependent on school meals.  Weekends and holidays as well as summer vacations are times when they would be food deprived and Nourish NC fills that gap.  As Thanksgiving rolls around this month, I want to give a shout-out to Nourish NC and thank them for looking after kids like JD and his siblings.  I encourage anyone reading this to find Nourish NC on the internet, and give a generous donation so that kids like JD, Sophie and Charlie can have a weekend or holiday “feast.”




Maryann Nunnally