Thanksgiving quickly approaches this week, with what may now be the holiday season in full swing. The leaves have slowly started to change in my area of Gulf Coast Texas, though not scattered from their branches as they eventually will later into the winter season. Thanksgiving is a holiday about gratitude and showing thanks for the many bounties that one receives and shares. While I hope that culminates into a warm and receptive event, I moreso hope to find that we continue to develop ways to express these attributes throughout all twelve months of the year instead of reserving them for one day.
I don’t know if you have traditions in your family so tied to the meal or the occasion. Maybe a few years back, I would have been more easily convinced that the day, outside of being a time of introspection and gratitude was about feasting and football. Or maybe it was about spending time with family. But, when introducing the idea of family into the mix, I am reminded that not every family looks the same. And what I am confident in is that I have never been a Norman Rockwell painting.
If I am being honest, that there really are two kinds of family that I have lived with and called a part of my tribe. From about the age of 8, I have been fortunate to identify a family of origin, through blood or marriage while also having a family of choice, through active interaction. And, I am not posting this to make judgements on either, but to simply address the experience that I have had.
Ultimately, both have shaped me in ways that even on my most bright of days, I would have a hard time totaling up.
Being the product of divorce, I recognize that who I would spend time with on a holiday was usually determined by a court decree. I learned to identify as much as a commodity to be passed between my parents as much as even their only son. And while the details of their divorce will remain private on a very public forum, it is safe to say that if anything is certain, that it ended with a lingering air of hostility that is still tangible 31 odd years later.
The family on one side never seemed to understand the struggles of a single parent who didn’t want to drown it all out with alcohol or being oblivious to any imperfection. The family on the other side, never wanted to aspire to growing outside of a certain area. Each had it’s own benefit, I suppose as well as it’s own dysfunction to possibly live into.
But, if watching the way that each interacted had taught me anything, knowing that there was another option was freeing in many ways. See, when I was about 8, my mother and I were invited to spend a holiday with a group of families that we had met through the Church that all had their own stories, flaws, dynamics, and strengths through them.
The best analogy for this group and family of choice for me that comes to mind is a random fact I heard about how many puzzle companies have used the same shape cutting tools to produce their pieces over time and product lines. So, there are certain individual artists who will find puzzles which were cut using the same template, and mash the two puzzle images up that makes something unique and sometimes off the wall.
I believe that is what a great family can do, be it by origin or by choice.
The same family that invited us into their home year after year when we needed a place to be, ended up being the ones whom I found the boombox from to start this whole blog. But, they also have had a portion of their family who run this restaurant in the one light town of Leona, Texas.
Leona is between Houston and Dallas off of 45, and truly is a place that you might otherwise miss if you aren’t looking for it. It is quaint, charming and genuine. The Leona General Store is open Thursday-Saturday evenings as it has been as this restaurant for over 20 years. The space was once actually the town general store, but was outfitted to meet the dreams of the operating family serving up the meals. Thursdays Nights welcome a Fish Fry, and both Friday and Saturday nights might be the best Steak Nights you’ll ever know. But don’t just take it from me, make a short trip out and prove me wrong. I am still waiting to hear any dispute from the few friends I have introduced to Leona over the years.
The restaurant usually requires a wait to get in, with outdoor stadium seating on a porch for patrons awaiting a delicious meal. The hand-cut ribeyes are prepared to order both in size and internal temperature (and understand that whatever size you order will be those ounces of meat after it’s cooked, unlike any competitor I have seen) served with salad, mashed potatoes and delicious rolls.
The Leona General Store has their own brand of seasoning rub that is available for purchase. I’ve grown up putting that blend on proteins like chicken, pork and steak; making it taste that much better as a result.
But, I guess that as I think about recent holidays, I can readily admit that Leona and the group which took me under their wing are actually something that I am truly beginning to appreciate. And I hope that you have your own version of kind and graceful people in your life.
Last year, I was overwhelmed with certain areas of my personal life. I felt broken and unworthy. I was invited to a multitude of tables for Thanksgiving, but could not bring myself to make an appearance at any of the usual get togethers. Instead, I politely declined the invites, using the excuse of prior plans to avoid the dysfunction and waited in a really obnoxious line at a local cafeteria restaurant. I watched families trying to wrangle children, make sure everyone had a plate and just get through the day. The food was ok, but not great. Sitting alone in that restaurant reminded me of just how much I long for a place to belong, especially when in that dark place.
The track this week is one that I am really excited to share, as I have patiently awaited the release of this record for most of the year. The band is “The Highwomen”, a supergroup composed of Maren Morris, Natalie Hemby, Amanda Shires and Brandi Carlile who united to produce an album that might have restored a dwindling hope for country music. All 4 women are strong songwriters and performers who, when penning the self titled collaboration album, dropped quite a few gems. The one selected this week, and that embodies Leona for me is “Crowded Table” and not just because I have once or twice been on the porch of the restaurant waiting to hear my party called.
Leona embodies the group of folks who have watched me in great times and in poor times. In both feast and famine. Those who have been supportive year in and year out. Who might not have been linked to the same puzzle but who have maintained being a fitting work of art in it’s own right. And I am lucky to have them in my life. With or without the Best Damn Steak in Texas.
Happy Holidays, y’all.
On a side note from the piece this week, I wanted to bring up something that brought me some elation this week; I usually post a preview of the week’s topic and video on IG a day or two before the post. I posted this week’s video, and almost immediately, the algorithms blocked the content as copyright infringement. (Since I am providing commentary on the music and location, I write and produce under fair use standards, for those of you wondering.) The block is not something new to me, but it didn’t look like it was appealable. My heart sank a bit. I was so hopeful that this week would be a really great addition.
But, what I started to see, despite the notice was many of you liking and seeing the post. While I don’t specifically write for likes, I did feel like this journey that we have been on over the last 2ish years was finally starting to click.
So, thank you for that. IG figured it out and unblocked the content. But, I just wanted to take some time to thank each of you for the support. Each, like, share, mention, follow, comment and contribution really does boost this further than I could alone.