Thanksgiving Dinner At A Gas Station – A Memory From My Childhood

in Life

I was born and spent most of my childhood in Kansas. I didn’t grow up on a farm (that’s usually what people ask me when they hear I’m from Kansas). We lived in a relatively suburban neighborhood –much like a suburban area anywhere in the country. It’s certainly not reminiscent of what people generally think of when they picture Kansas.

Like many places in the country, Kansas has some very rural and very poor areas. As I got into my high school years, I would spend more time exploring this part of Kansas –peppered with its subtle beauty. But when you’re a kid, you’re pretty much confined to where your parents take you, and you usually don’t go far.

Thanksgiving was an occasion when we’d drive across the state to my grandparents house. As long ago as it was, I still remember these drives vividly. Miles and miles of nothing but wheat fields –with a handful of grain towers scattered here and there. I remember looking out the car window from the backseat and noticing how the wheat closer to the road seemed to pass by faster than the wheat farther away, and it reminded me of Super Mario Bros on Super Nintendo.

Gas stations in this part of Kansas are few and far between, and usually aren’t your typical Conocos. In addition to gas, you see strange things like homemade dolls for sale, old VHS tapes for rent, and various (slightly offensive) hand-written signs that read such things as, “No out of town checks accepted!!!“. I don’t know if they sell these anymore (or how they ever got away with it in the first place), but they also sold candy cigarettes and I always wanted them.

We were stopped at one of these gas stations on a particularly grim Thanksgiving. When heavy winds mix with ice and snow, winter in the great plains can be truly miserable. Inside the store I began pestering my dad about the candy cigarettes, to which, as always, he replied with a frustrated “No”. “Dad, they aren’t even real! The candy is good!” This was of course a lie –the candy was nasty, I just wanted to act like I was smoking and delightfully foster whatever reactions I happened to get.

As I stood beside my dad at the counter, angry in a way that only a kid can be angry, I looked over and saw a family sitting at a small booth within the store. It was a father, mother, and two children. Each had a pre-packaged turkey sandwich and cup of milk portioned from a single bottle. It looked like they had tried to dress nicely, but were obviously very poor.

As we were leaving, they bowed their heads and started to pray. They all looked happy. Their smiles radiated in a way that I’d never seen before –as if their hearts were full of a warm confidence that the rest of us didn’t possess.

Perhaps had I witnessed this as an adult I would have discovered some kind of deep philosophical or spiritual truth as a result. However, as a new soul, I simply thought, “I bet those kids are better kids than me.”

Ryan Bales

About Ryan Bales

Ryan is the Founder and CEO of Bync, which he founded in 2012.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Matt Berg Matt November 24, 2011 at 10:06 am

Good post. Very vivid imagery. I will keep those less fortunate than me in my thoughts today. Happy Thanksgiving!


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