Happy Thanksgiving, and welcome back for part 2 of our little tour! I’m guessing you are in the middle of your to-do list for Thursday’s big dinner, so thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop in for a visit here today. 🙂
As we prep all the food and get things ready for this meal, I can’t help but think of the countless Thanksgiving dinners I’ve enjoyed in the past. Growing up, our family never traveled “over the river and through the woods” to any relative’s home for the holiday. It was always Thanksgiving with just my parents and my siblings at our home.
My brother and sister and I would wake early to the smell of a turkey roasting in the oven. (Heaven only knows what time my mother got started in the kitchen on that day!) We would watch the Thanksgiving Day parades on television, and then my father would take us children outside to rake leaves in the yard. I am guessing part of the thinking behind this was to keep us out of our mother’s way in the kitchen. Smart man.
Our home sat in the first row of a large pecan orchard, so there were a lot of leaves to get up. We would all rake them into large piles, and then we’d rake those piles onto big white bed sheets (yes really!)
Once the sheet had a pile my father deemed substantial enough, one of us would grip one end of the sheet with my father grasping the other, and we’d haul them to dump into the flower beds for mulch.
I’m sure along the way there were episodes of “jump in the leaf pile” with one of our beagles much like the scene from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.
We’d take a break at lunch to go inside for the big meal my mother had single-handedly prepared. We’d sit in the formal dining room with the olive green carpet. My father would say grace, thanking God for our many blessings, and then we’d eat with the real silver, dining off green flowery bordered Noritake china, the Princeton pattern if I remember correctly.
There was always turkey and dressing, ambrosia, deviled eggs, that wiggly jellied cranberry sauce, (that kept its perfect shape as it slid out of its can) a green bean casserole with the crunchy onion topping, celery sticks stuffed with pimento cheese, (my favorite!) and a sweet potato casserole with that toasted marshmallow topping that we all fought over. For dessert, we would have pecan pie with shelled pecans from our orchard, made from the recipe on the back of the Karo syrup bottle.
There were probably other dishes as well, but they don’t stand out in my memory like these do. I’m always amazed to think that my mom was able to serve all of those dishes out of her one little oven. Just think how many of those things had to be baked!
And then after stuffing ourselves silly it was time for….watching football on tv? Nope. Back to raking of course! It was the Thanksgiving tradition! (I’m sure that’s what the Pilgrims and Native Americans did when they finished their feast, right? 🙂 )
And this tradition has continued for many many years. Even through college, when I would come home from good ol’ GSC (now GSU) for the holiday break, we would eat the traditional turkey and dressing meal and rake the yard on Thanksgiving Day.
Then I married, and I attended my first Thanksgiving with my husband’s family…quite a different affair. His family has a BIG reunion with scads of aunts, uncles, and assorted cousins enjoying their meal….60+ people (rather overwhelming for a young bride!)
But good grief at the food! It has always been “organized potluck” with specific dishes requested each year…my mother-in-law’s turkey and dressing, Janna’s sweet potato souffle, Lee’s green bean and corn casserole, an aunt’s ambrosia, and many many many more! I always bring my raspberry ribbon salad (recipe here.) (And we all playfully fight over the corner piece of Wanda’s caramel cake. 🙂 )
And in addition to all these family gatherings, I remember 30 years of school Thanksgiving dinners.
Each year on the Thursday before the Thanksgiving break, all the schools in the county have a “holiday meal.” (That’s what it’s called on the menu.) In the elementary schools this was always a big deal.
Yards and yards of bulletin board paper would be rolled out to cover the tables. In the art classes, centerpieces would be created from construction paper, perhaps toilet paper rolls, and even the proverbial pine cone.
The lower grades would create Native American head dresses and vests or Pilgrim caps and collars. (It’s amazing what you can do with construction paper, scissors, and glue!)
And everyone would design paper placemats to use at their spot so that they didn’t get anything on the paper “tablecloths.” This was a big deal because not only would other classes sit where you sat as the lunch rotation went through the cafeteria, but PARENTS were invited to this meal as well…and you sure didn’t want to leave a mess where a parent might possibly sit!
Some schools turned off the lights and lit candles for this meal. Heaven help us if the fire marshall ever showed up! We would have had a major “paper overuse” violation with an open flame on top of that! But it would have been worth the write up. When the excited children, all dressed in their paper costumes, came through that lunchroom door and saw all the decorations, their eyes would widen in awe. They would point at the tables and just take it all in. It was a big deal. 🙂
And of course the wonderful lunch ladies prepared turkey and dressing (the recipe of which my mother-in-law still uses today!) On top of that delicious dressing would be a tiny white paper cup holding a spoonful of cranberry sauce, most of which none of the students would touch. But there would always be one or two children in each class who would ask the kids around them, “Are you going to eat your cranberry sauce?” And before you know it, they would have 7 or 8 of those cups of it in their possession!
Years ago, those “holiday meals” included a scoop of sweet potato casserole with that yummy marshmallow topping, but I think that has been abandoned through the years with school lunchrooms having to be more mindful of nutrition. Some years there would be ambrosia made with oranges, coconut, and maraschino cherries, and other years would have an apple and raisin salad. There would be those big amazing yeast rolls and a square of cake – maybe spice, maybe vanilla with a coconut frosting, or perhaps vanilla with a chocolate frosting.
Many of the children would have parents come and dine with them. I would always sit with the ones that had no guests so that they would have “somebody.” And year after year, there would always be a child who would quietly ask me if they could wrap up their serving of cake to take home to a grandparent because “they would love it.” So we would carefully wrap it in a paper napkin, put it in a ziplock bag when we got back to the classroom, and they would take it home in their bookbag at the end of the day (along with an extra piece or two I retrieved from the sweet lunch ladies.)
Soooo many Thanksgivings to remember…and so much to be thankful for…family, friends, good health, a safe place to call home. Our law school son will travel with friends to Montreal, and our Seattle son will be celebrating a Friendsgiving with his 4 new housemates and a group of friends. I am sad our boys won’t be here this year, but I am thankful they each have friends with which to celebrate.
We’ll be splitting the day between families and having one meal here. I set up both the porch and dining room for you to see. I would like to dine on the porch (just look at that view!) but I think it will be too cool, and we’ll have to eat in the dining room. We won’t be raking leaves at my parents’ home because I have “mowed” their leaves, and the yard is clean!
Now I’m off to finish my to-do list. There is a raspberry ribbon salad to make and bunches of turnips to wash and oranges to peel (all while listening to Christmas music. 🙂 ) Enjoy your day tomorrow! Whether you are having a Thanksgiving meal with a small group, a big family reunion, or joining in a Friendsgiving someplace, I hope you have a very blessed day…remembering all that you are thankful for. I count you as one of my blessings!
Until next time…
(when there will be Christmas decorations!)