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Mothers of Thanksgiving

Above Photo: Stephanie McIntosh of Live Oak’s Downtown Café places God and family at the top of the list for things she’s thankful for.

-Photo by Jeffry Boatright

By Jeffry Boatright

The long-awaited Thanksgiving season is here, and the pies are in the oven. Most of us really do cherish the annual holiday, and maybe we do place a little too much emphasis on eating and other gratifying activities. Of course, we can justify that by comparing our Thanksgiving feasts and activities to the renowned Thanksgiving celebration of 1621, which involved the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag.

The 1621 Thanksgiving celebration included the surviving members of the Plymouth colony and about 90 Wampanoag Indians. Of the 53 surviving colonists, only four were adult women, historians claim.

Considering most Thanksgiving celebrations today, we can imagine the work that was required of those surviving women of the Plymouth colony. Thanksgiving is indeed a wonderful time, which should be a time of reverence, but do we men and children really consider the task that is expected of women?

Perhaps we should consider the efforts of Sarah Josepha Hale. Hale, who is often recognized as the mother of Thanksgiving, was a magazine editor during the 19th century. Being quite outspoken in her day, the New Hampshire native often wrote about Thanksgiving and promoted family gatherings with feasts resembling the traditional meal that we enjoy today.

Hale never abandoned her efforts to have Thanksgiving added to our calendar as a national holiday. She finally appealed to President Abraham Lincoln, who issued a proclamation in 1863 designating the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving. Of course, some may know Sarah Josepha Hale as the author of the revered nursery rhyme Mary’s Lamb. Today, we simply recognize that cherished publication as Mary Had a Little Lamb.

As a mother of five, Hale undoubtedly understood the challenges of being a homemaker. Yet, she penned descriptions of a Thanksgiving feast that would serve as model for all of America. The devout Christian certainly left her mark on future generations, and her fervor for family gatherings on Thanksgiving can be seen in women today.

Weary from their own toils in the workplace, women across the nation somehow find a burst of energy to ensure that we enjoy a Thanksgiving feast that is fit for a king. While we men step up to the plate, bringing in the wild meat from the woods and streams, we must remember the Sarah Josepha Hales of the world who magically incorporate our bounties into their delicate feasts with all the trimmings. We might also remember the tasks they face in the countless chores after the feast while we dutifully watch football, squeeze in a little target practice, or take that well-deserved nap. Who knows, the ladies of America might actually appreciate our help during those post-meal chores.

It is difficult to think of Sarah Josepha Hale and not consider the women in our own lives, and the many roles they play. One such example for so many people is Stephanie McIntosh of Live Oak.

McIntosh, a dedicated mother, daughter, sister, friend and business owner, epitomizes Hale’s legacy through her endless devotion to family, church and friends. In keeping with tradition, McIntosh, who owns the Downtown Café in Live Oak, will host her family this Thanksgiving with a traditional meal that even Sarah Hale would rave about.

For McIntosh, however, there is much more to it than just tradition. It is about giving thanks, being together as a family, and giving of herself. When asked what she is thankful for, McIntosh beamed with joy, describing her son, parents, siblings, work, and above all, her relationship with God.

“As a daughter, I am thankful that God has blessed me with kind, loving, parents, who were disciplinarians,” she said of Tommy and Dorothy McIntosh with her trademark smile. “They took us to church every Sunday and made sure that we knew that Jesus died for us. They taught us right from wrong, to love our neighbor, and to help someone in need,” she added.

“I am thankful for my siblings to know what it means to have and to be a friend, and to love one another even with our faults,” McIntosh explained of her brother Timothy McIntosh and sisters Joy Cosenza and Tonya McIntosh Tyre.

An inspiration to everyone she meets, McIntosh has certainly impacted her son, Daniel McIntosh. Explaining what it means to be a mother, she said, “As a mother, I get the true understanding of unconditional love because God trusted me with that privilege, and what a wonderful gift he has been to me,” she beautifully articulated.

“As a Christian, I am thankful that God sent His only Son to die on the cross for me,” McIntosh, who gives selflessly of herself at Beulah Baptist Church, explained. “It’s hard to believe and understand that He loves me that much, to die on a cross and promise to rise again on the third day, and to go and prepare a place in heaven for me, my son, my family and all who believe.”

While McIntosh is thankful for her relationships with God and family, she recognizes how fortunate she is to love her vocation. “As a business owner, I realize that God wants us to be happy, humble, and to let others see him in us. He has blessed me again, little ole’ me, with the best job in the world, I believe. I love to cook. I love to talk and pray with my friends and customers. It really doesn’t get any better for me.”

Like McIntosh, we can all think of the things that we have to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

While there might not be enough ink in the world to list all the blessings that we enjoy, it is certain that Mothers of Thanksgiving, such as Hale and McIntosh, should be at the top of our lists.