Thanksgivings Past

In my family, Thanksgivings were always celebrated at our house.  My mother would be up late on Erev Thanksgiving baking pies, then up early on Thanksgiving Day to put a twenty-something pound turkey in the oven.  The meal was always the same: turkey stuffed with Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix spiked with sausage, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls and one other vegetable.  I don’t think the green bean casserole craze had arrived yet but I seem to remember string beans or corn.  Of course, there was canned cranberry sauce … the whole berry kind Dad liked and the jellied kind I still prefer.   The pies were always the same:  pumpkin, mince meat and cherry.

Sometime about noon, Dad would head off to pick up the grandmothers, my Mom’s mother, who we called Nanny, and my Dad’s Mom, who we called Gramma.    Until he passed away at a relatively young age, my father’s brother, Walt, would come, too.  Walt had a disability that affected him both physically and mentally.  His child-like ways made me uncomfortable but my Mom insisted I spend some time with him … which included several games of chess that he’d only occasionally win.   My mother’s sister, Marge, and her husband, Ted, would roll up shortly before dinner.   Dad was outspoken about his dislike of Marge but really liked Ted, in spite of wondering out loud afterwards, What did he ever see in that woman?  Our house was small, so dad would move the dining room table into the living room so there was room to put in two leaves and have everybody, including the kids (me, my brother Glenn and sister, Patti) at one table.   One drumstick was always mine and everyone was sure to make a big deal about how much I ate, an affliction that has remained with me to this day.   Meanwhile, at one end of the table, Gramma was asking for just a little more of this and and a little more of that until she’d surreptitiously eaten more than I did.   The best part of the turkey, she’d say, is the part that went over the fence last, as Dad cut her the tail.  I doubt the twenty pound Tom had ever made it over a fence.  During the afternoon, uncle and aunts and cousins would stop by to visit and scarf some of Mom’s pies as I watched in horror.

When you are a kid, you don’t think about the whys and wherefores of the holidays.  You don’t realize that Mom insisted on having Thanksgiving so that the grandmothers and her sister would have a place to go on Thanksgiving.   She couldn’t count on the rest of the family and besides, no one would have Marge.  You don’t consider that every year, Dad probably tried to talk her out of inviting Marge but she insisted or that the grandmothers didn’t seem to like each other all that much but Mom had them both come anyway.   You don’t wonder if just once, she might have liked to had someone else do all the work … like one of those Uncles or Aunts who’d get to visit their Moms on my mother’s dime with dessert thrown in.   You take it for granted that Mom insists you be nice to Uncle Walt, when all the other cousins make fun of him and call him Uncle Piggy.

Like my Dad, my Mom taught mostly by example (only in her case, with a bit of guilt thrown in as motivation … God has a special place in heaven for people like Walt, so you can be nice to him).   Mom was the glue that held the family together, planning holidays and picnics and reunions.  When she passed, it all stopped.  I don’t know if anyone appreciated her.  I didn’t then.  I do now.  Miss you, Mom.

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3 Comments on “Thanksgivings Past”

  1. Cheryl P. Says:

    AWWWW that was a really sweet post. My childhood was a mess of custody battles and bitter feelings. As I lived with a number of families, I would enjoy their traditions until being moved on. I like the thought of a regular routine. Every family has a few quirky characters. (What the heck was Marge’s problem?)

    Are you spending the holiday with your children and does Muri have a big meal to prepare?

    Today we are traveling to Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri to spend Thanksgiving with my daughter, son-in-law and g-boys at my SIL’s parents house. We tend to rotate the holidays between families. I get Christmas this year.

    Not that I am planning to leave anytime soon, I do hope my children look back on me fondly.

    Happy Thanksgiving!!

  2. You look like her. 🙂 You’re right- as we get older, we see the reasons for things we thought were random before. My dad’s family was always gracious enough to invite my mother’s father to holidays after her mother died. We do the same thing with her sister now, because, like your family, she can’t count on hers to do anything. I think in some ways, this is what holidays are about: reaching out to include those who might otherwise be forgotten or alone. Always extra room at the table and always plenty of food.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. territerri Says:

    You’re right. When you’re a kid, you don’t wonder any of those things. Your mom was a wonderful woman who was able to set aside any bitterness she might have felt about how Thanksgiving came together each year. She was able to see past the flaws of others and love them in spite of their shortcomings.

    Your post just made me realize that my sister is a lot like your mom. And maybe I should try a little harder to be like her too.

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