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Every day provides opportunities to be thankful

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By Christopher Brooke

Thanksgiving definitely provided the warming glow of visiting with family, while nestled in my in-laws’ new home. It was more than cozy.
Beth and I switched up holiday travel this year with the destination of Asheboro, N.C., as our goal to carve turkey and ham with extended family.
A fairly typical southern city, Asheboro built itself up through a cluster of furniture and textile mills, but now is mainly known to outsiders as the official home of the North Carolina Zoo.
What makes it particularly quaint for me is several generations of Beth’s family live there, all within a few miles of each other.
The matriarch of the bunch, known simply as Nanny, can narrate a personal history of the city, because among those she’s not kin to, she’s probably set the hair of about half of the remaining Asheboro residents in her salon in an outbuilding just a few feet from the home she’s lived in for many a decade.
Not coincidently, Beth got her hair done in that very shop on our wedding day and we got hitched on the front lawn under the boughs of two shady magnolia trees.
It used to be just a short jaunt in the car from our home in Virginia. We could arrive on short notice for birthdays, graduations, reunions and other special occasions.
After relocating to Kentucky last year for Beth’s stint in graduate school, our visits have to be carefully planned long in advance.
We’ve been out of the loop for so long, there was plenty of news to catch up on.
This trip allowed us to see the new home Beth’s parents have, down several confusing turns on country roads. The neighborhood, tucked in behind the aforementioned zoo, is shaded by woodlots still basking in autumn colors, so far untouched by suburban sprawl.
I nearly ran off the road in the dark, probably less than a half mile from their house, wrongly believing I had reached the intersection where you go straight, but where an obtuse curve can fool an unfamiliar driver to almost pulling into the access road that splits off of it.
Doubly interesting about their new quarters, the in-laws told me they hear elephants bleating and lions roaring on quiet nights.
I didn’t envy them their cross-county move, but now they call a classic 1930s Cape Cod home. It came with three acres that serve as a remnant and a reminder of the larger farm that once existed there.
Beth worried she’d be overwhelmed by nostalgia, missing the simple, packed-to-the- rafters ranch home she’d grown up in, but it’s difficult not to feel good about their decision.
With its four-up, four-down floor layout, her parents and her brothers have plenty of elbow room without her father having to kick back in front of a TV in his shop to watch the Redskins and there’s space for her mother to work on sewing and craft  projects upstairs and still have room enough for their grandchild to romp around.
Closed in stoops add to the living space and a front porch allows them to stare into the starry sky.
Outside, my mother-in-law saw her beehives produce 36 pounds of honey, of which we left with two. Those bees will eventually help pollinate the many fruit trees my father-in-law wants to plant in the back.
In short, it’s idyllic.
Thanksgiving has always been a pleasant affair with the in-laws, as they make special efforts to keep the turkey tasty and succulent. In fact, they serve the best holiday feasts I’ve ever enjoyed.
Their new cooking arrangement involved frying the bird with an infrared cooker on the enclosed porch just off the dining room. That just happens to be where they stoke a super efficient and effective wood stove for heating.
Normally, the woodstove works so well they can make several rooms quite toasty and still have to moderate the temperature by opening the door to the screened porch.
It turned out smoking a turkey on the porch provided extra convection inside the house. Nobody had a thermometer, but my unofficial estimate is the turkey brought the dining room’s temperature to the high 90s.
I gently ribbed them about feeling roasted myself while sitting down to the spread that included ham, green beans, deviled eggs, persimmon pudding, pumpkin pie and all the holiday trimmings.
In truth, seeing my family thriving in their new abode warmed my heart the most.
Driving through half of Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia to central North Carolina can be taxing, but knowing there are many smiles and hugs at the end — to be welcomed back into the family’s arms — makes it all worthwhile.
It all reminded me that I truly feel grateful for Beth and our time together, for loved ones, for friends old and new.
The holiday may be over, but there’s never a bad time to be thankful.