Thanksgiving is in just a few days so of course I figured this would be a good time to try to remember everything I could about Thanksgiving as a child.
Since we lived with my grandmother it was always our house that everyone came to for the big events. I loved having everyone come over. My grandmother’s brothers, Uncle Fred and Uncle Jess, the unmarried brothers who lived together and were as different as any two siblings could be. Her other brother, Uncle Harvey and his wife Rose who gave the best hugs. I remember a few times when my grandfather was still alive that some of his relatives came too. Lorraine was married to my grandfather’s brother. I can’t remember his name right now. But Lorraine always wore tons of fancy costume jewelry. When she got tired of it she would give it to me for craft projects. Great uncle Jake and auntie Dodo would come from San Mateo. My mom’s siblings would be there too, Uncle Tim and Uncle Bud and his wife Pat. Their two kids Mike and Diane. My aunt Mary Jane and her boys Danny and Jimmy. And me.
Nana’s house wasn’t big but we always seemed to find room for everyone. We would set the table with a pink sheet and then a lace tablecloth over the top so the pink would show through. Her china was a pink rose pattern and the glasses were a delicate pink Fostoria. It was a while before I was old enough to be allowed to set the table with those glasses. The grownups got to sit at the big fancy table and we kids had to sit at card tables in the other room. If we were really bad we had to take our food into the kitchen and they would shut the sliding door so we couldn’t see anyone.
My favorite thing to do to get ready for people to come over was to make placecards with everyone’s name and some fancy squiggles. Sometimes my grandmother even let them stay on the table.
It seemed like my grandmother stayed up all night cooking and everyone who came brought food. There was a big turkey, of course, and all us kids fighting over the drumsticks. Mashed potatoes. Candied yams. Some kind of jello with fruit and marshmallows. Corn. Peas. Bread was always those flakey dinner rolls that had slices in them. She bought them from the Quality Bakery. Little bowls of gherkins and olives. Dessert was always pumpkin pie and apple pie. With Cool Whip. Scattered around the house on coffee tables and tv trays were other munchies. My grandfather’s favorite mini mints. They were little white things with a bit of green in the middle and they melted in your mouth. There would be almonds from our trees, light roasted and dusted with salt. And there would be my favorite, sugared walnuts, also from our trees.
What I remember most was that it seemed like everyone wanted to be there. Everyone laughed and stayed for hours. The men would talk about hunting and fishing and boats. The women would talk about relatives who weren’t there and various ailments. Now, for some reason only they understand, my two uncles no longer speak to my mother which means, by association, the no longer speak to me. It’s been nearly 20 years now. No one gets together at Thanksgiving or any other holiday. One of my uncles met my children once. The other, never.
It makes me even more grateful at this time of year for my wonderful in-laws who are open and loving and remind me what family is really all about.
Your turn. What do you remember about Thanksgiving as a child?