Saturday, November 14, 2009

THE TRUTH OF THANKSGIVING

The Holiday season is quickly approaching.  The hustle and bustle has begun. Halloween ended and the Holidays began.


Recently I asked friends and family to think back, to close their eyes and think of Thanksgivings past, and tell me their stories.  One common thread quickly emerged:  Thanksgiving is synonymous with family.  Sometimes we find it difficult to believe, in this mixed-up, sometimes cruel world, that we have a common bond, but most of us can relate to the peace and love shared during big Thanksgiving dinners.


Don shared his most memorable Thanksgiving with a smile on his face, and a twinkle in his eyes.  Interestingly, just a minute or two earlier, we were discussing stressful work situations, but just this one question, "What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory?" led to a moment of peace.


"It was 1969," he began.  "I know the year because I owned a white 1962 Chevy Impala convertible.  All seven of us were home for Thanksgiving...and it snowed."  Here, Don sighed and continued, "It snowed this big, heavy snow, and we all went outside and made snowmen...on Thanksgiving!  Can you imagine getting a snow like that now?  Even in the winter?"


My friend, Ginny, who lives in Birmingham recalled her first Thanksgiving dinner made lovingly for her family in she and her husband's first house.


"My sister and I were getting the final touches done on dinner. She asked me if I had made gravy. I told her no, should I have? She said she didn't think so but that everyone used the little bag of stuff from the turkey to make gravy.


"What little bag of stuff?" I inquired.


"You know, the bag of stuff that comes inside the turkey along with the neck?"


"What neck?"


Ginny compares her mother-in-law with Marie Barone of "Everybody Loves Raymond" fame.  The overly critical, nosy, and sometimes annoying woman trying to find any possible way of making sure her son knows the only woman who could love him right, was his mother.  Ginny and her sister carved that turkey and Ginny got rid of the blackened bag of gizzards, and the charred neck, the best way she knew how:  She took it outside and buried it!  Marie Barone was none the wiser, and Ginny and her sibling recall the memory of their sisterhood fondly.

I know that Ginny and Tracy know each other, but they may be more connected than they, or I, realized.  My cousin, Tracy, recalled this:  "I fondly remember my first Thanksgiving married to Bill, whose Mom was a great cook and made everything from scratch. I cooked the giblets and the neck in the turkey. What new wife hasn't done that, right?"

Along with Tracy and Ginny cooking the gizzards bags in the turkeys, Moss-E recalled her talents in the kitchen were recognized like this:  "Being assigned, as an adult, to put the ice in the glasses.  That's pretty much it.  They know my capabilities.  Okay, I can mash potatoes."  

Susan, who comes from a big Italian family and can cook mouthwatering foods that make me gain five pounds just looking at them, told me, "The one thing that sticks out in my mind is the year Mom made tortellini soup after having visited my Aunt Vickie in California and learning the recipe.  She made this delicious soup with turkey and tortellini noodles, and we all ate so much soup, nobody but my brother Johnny and cousin Nick, may he rest in peace, would eat any of the large turkey dinner she had slaved over.  So the next year, she set out tiny little bowls and we were all only allowed one teensy serving of soup. We begged for more and Mom said, 'You're kidding, right?  After last year?'"  Those Italian cooks are just too good for their own good! 



Nikki made us all laugh out loud when she described her nephew's timely description of the Holiday bird. "When my nephew was little, and his eyes got real big and he said 'WOW! That's a big ass bird!' We all busted out laughing!"  


Nancy, or Moss-E as we so lovingly call her, sent a list of her memories.  They all were fantastic, but I picked out a few of my favorites:  "Mom burning the marshmallows on the sweet potatoes at the last minute, again.  Open the window!  Again!"  She was quick to tell me, though,  her mother's dressing is the best in the world and to not even consider arguing with her about that.  I believe her!  I know her mom.  Those were her first comments, followed by, "My late Uncle Harley telling us all every year, over and over, that yams give him gas."

Nancy then shared the following story:  "Going to the Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving and getting on the news.  They were showing the parking lot festivities, and me, from the back, bent over, digging a beer out of a cooler.  Seems like it took quite awhile to find just the right one, too.  It was great news coverage." 



There are many of us who share bittersweet thoughts of this time of year because there are people we love so much who are no longer with us. My parents have both passed away within the past twelve months or so, and we are facing our first Thanksgiving without them. But we are not alone.  Jeana's grief was apparent when she said she always remembers the people who have left this earth, especially during this season. She also loved "being a little kid with no worries."  I can definitely identify with that sentiment!  How wonderful it was to go to Gramma's and be surrounded by loving adults who took care of everything!


My friend, Connie, had a memory that made all of us sigh and smile.  She posted on Facebook, "I was a freshman in high school and my Mom had surgery and came home the day before Thanksgiving. Since my Daddy and I could not cook very well, we made what every good Italian can make - spaghetti...and it was really good!! I miss my Mom and Daddy very much." 


Suzanne's favorite memory of Thanksgiving Day was of..."Being young and my entire family of nine being together with the smell of the food cooking and seeing how much food there was." While that is her fondest memory of the season, her actual most memorable resonates along the same theme as Connie's, where what the food was did not matter as much as simply the fact it was Thanksgiving.  She recalls, "A Thanksgiving in California, away from my family.  My brother had died less than a year before and my husband was working. We had one car so I didn't go to his work because he went to work really early and had our car. So I finally opened up a can of tuna and that was my Thanksgiving feast."  She goes on to say, "I really wish I could go back to that memory of my entire family of nine being together."

Tracy has a family memory she was not sure she wanted to dredge up but shared with me.  She wrote, "One year, I had just gotten my license so it must have been 1976. Chuck, Judy, my sister who is no longer with us, and Angie came down for Thanksgiving, and it snowed. On their way down they were in a minor accident because of the snowstorm. It was the other person's fault. Then, when they were visiting I was backing out of the driveway and sideswiped their car. Remember how hard that driveway was to back out of because of the angle? Fortunately, I sideswiped the back fender that was already damaged, but I still cried."  

Jamie S., a good friend of mine from down South who shares my love of the sky, knew immediately what her happiest Thanksgiving holiday memories were.  She e-mailed, "Waking up and smelling the turkey already cooking, and watching the Macy's parade.  It had always been a dream of mine to go to the parade, but from what I'm told, it's much better to watch it with your family, snug in your PJs, safe and cozy in your own home.  Oh, and playing football in the yard with a wood fire smell in the air."  I can almost see the dreamy look in Jamie's eyes over my broadband connection!

Barb from Colorado said, "Ahh, yes...the kids' table.  No one could ever explain to my why my cousin and I were relegated to the kids' table until we were in our early teens, but our younger cousins were released before they were ten."  We have all done our time at the Kids' Table.  Lynn, though, replied to Barb's post at cowsill.com with "Don't you mean the Fun Table?"  No doubt, being a child during those precious family holiday feasts was memorable.  Nancy has a seating memory, too.  "The extra card table, and using the piano bench for extra seating."  


Many of us honor, or at least attempt to honor, the memories of relatives by attempting to copy some dish which brings back that feeling of comfort and peace and happiness associated with Thanksgiving.  Imagine my surprise, for example, when I finally realized the secret to everything tasty my mom cooked up was chicken broth.  My family put up with many not-so-special food items as I tried to make the green beans taste just like Mom's. Now, they do!


Caren sent an e-mail to me describing her grandmother allowing her to whip the cream for the pumpkin pies.  "My favorite Thanksgiving memory was when my grandmother finally considered me old enough to whip the cream for the pumpkin pie by myself.  My family always did it from scratch with heavy whipping cream, and it was quite the ritual with Grandma Seorenia. The old white glass mixing bowl and the beaters had to be refrigerated and not taken out until one was ready to start the electric mixer."  She ended her awesome story by saying, "To this day I will make whipped cream with a cold bowl and beaters before buying a can from the refrigerated section."  


Sometimes we just have to figure out how to get out of all the work of cleaning up afterward.  Colleen figured that out one year!  "My "favorite" memory is 1975 when I nearly cut off the top of my index finger whilst peeling butternut squash. I spent a few hours in the hospital getting sewn up, then came home to a fully prepared dinner courtesy of my now deceased ex-mother-in-law, Mildred Taylor. I didn't have to clean up that year either. Who wants blood on clean dishes???"


Sometimes Thanksgiving is just all about the food, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!  Sometimes, when I am particularly lonesome or homesick, I can actually smell my grandmother's house on Thanksgiving.  My musical genius friend, Kerre, put it very eloquently when I posed the question to him about his favorite Thanksgiving memory by saying, quickly, "Eating."  My daughter, Jamie, had pretty much the same response.  Her eyes lit up when I asked her to participate in my blog, and without even hesitating she said, "Gramma's sweet potatoes!"  and my cousin, Tom, spent zero seconds thinking about his favorite memory.  "Cranberry salad and the wonderful banana pudding that Grammy always made!!!!!!!!!!!!!" he posted on Facebook.  I think he's pretty adamant about that cranberry salad and banana pudding if the exclamation point count is any indication!


Another cousin of mine, Sharon, shared with me how much my mom and dad meant to her at Thanksgiving.  In a Facebook message Sharon wrote, "Aunt Betty's baked beans. Uncle Bill always fixed me macaroni and tomatoes because his were the BEST !!!"  Again we have several exclamation points so I am believing those dishes were really good! 

I received an e-mail from Barb with a story explaining one of her son's love of the eating ritual on Thanksgiving.  He evidently ate until he threw up, and even though everyone felt bad for him and assumed he was done for the day, he returned for seconds.  Now that's eating tradition dedication!    

Jamie was also quick to remember the wooden turkey we had that held Tootsie-Pops as the feathers.  I would put that out around the first of November and kept filling it as the kids plucked it. She could close her eyes and almost taste the grape Tootsie-Pops that were her favorites.


Sometimes Thanksgiving even becomes the catalyst for repairing lost relationships.  Jessica shared this story with me:  "There was a member of my family that was rather negative, and she was really putting a damper on the day, complaining, grilling people, just being unhappy. One by one, she began to alienate each person who had arrived to celebrate Thanksgiving at my Father's house. My dad was outside in the garage cooking something on the grill. I was a bit exasperated, so I ventured out to spend some time with my dad and get some fresh air. A few minutes later, my brother joined us (apparently he had been alienated, too). The next thing I knew, my stepmom was outside, and then my stepbrother. It was very cold and we all had to bundle up to be outside. Although we were not warm, we all gathered around the grill to commiserate. Soon, we were talking and laughing. Before we knew it, we were enjoying the holiday, huddled together in the cold. We began to realize that it didn't matter where we were or what we were doing--as long as we were together on the holiday celebrating our family."  An apology was offered later in the day, and the disgruntled relative reentered the fold, but Jessica and her family will never forget that day.

Thanksgiving.  What memories it brings!  What emotion just the mention of it invokes!  Family, food, peace, love, comfort, and hope for the future resonate throughout these shared stories.  Whether we equate the day with lost loved ones, food, or comfort, one thing is certain...almost everyone has a story to share about the Holiday.


From my home to your home, whether you live thousands of miles away, or are my next door neighbor, peace, love, and Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

7 comments:

Tracy said...

Oh yeah, banana pudding. How could I forget? You can tell Moss-e that my Mom's stuffing is better than her Mom's. :-p

Kerre said...

Very cool Kathy, very cool...

Kerre said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John said...

Did Ginny tell you about the lemon pie where she forgot she had already put the recommended amount of lemon in it? Our mouths was puckered the whole day

John said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dancr4ever said...

This was great to read! I also should have mentioned a memory of one of my goals to see the Macy's Parade in person and how one Thanksgiving I decided 2 days before to take my kids. I was on crutches having had knee surgery but I didn't care. We really needed something like that at the time so off we went. It was great fun but oh so cold! We choose the coldest parade day ever, the one where the light came down and injured a woman (who later had a plane crash into her apt. window, flown by a Yankee I think and which killed her).

I look forward to reading more blogs. Thanks, Kathy!

Cathi said...

Love all the memories.....you did a great job with this Kathy...you are definitely a born writer, baby! xxoo