When I was little, we’d always spend Thanksgiving at my Grandma Thompson’s house and sit down for our feast in the middle of the day. Afterwards, we’d wobble away from the table to watch football, catch up on family gossip, take naps and play games. All the dishes would have been washed, and the food kept handy for picking throughout the afternoon. Then about 5 or so, everyone would wander back into the kitchen, rubbing their tummies like they hadn’t eaten in weeks. We’d haul everything back onto the dining room table for Round Two. Even then, everyone had leftovers to take home.
One year, my Great Grandpa Graham and some of my great uncles came for Thanksgiving from Hazeldell, Illinois. My grandmother had grown up on a farm, so these boys were used to hunting to put food on the table. And since you never arrived empty handed, they brought squirrel and rabbit and turkey for our dinner. My sister, Linda, and I were excited to see Great Grandpa, and even more excited when one of the great uncles gave us each bracelets made of the softest white little puffballs. We put them on right away and skipped off to Aunt Lois’ old bedroom to pose in front of the mirror like we were models. One of the great uncles happened by and seemed pleased that we liked our presents, telling us each bracelet was made from bunny tails.
Bunny tails? Why would you take the tails off of little bunnies? we wondered. And then, it dawned on us. We snatched off our bracelets, left them carefully on Aunt Lois’ old dresser and ran to wash our hands.
Things only got worse at dinner. Great Grandpa and all of the uncles seemed very proud of the heaping platter of meat on the table, and everyone remarked at how good it looked as it was passed around. Except it wasn’t meat. It was little squirrel corpses and bunny bodies. Linda and I ate of ton of Grandma’s homemade noodles and green beans that year, vowing to become vegetarians.
When I was about 12 or so, mom, Aunt Lois and I got out the Scrabble game while the menfolk watched football and talked sports. We were just starting our second game when Uncle Chuck asked if he could play, too, so mom gave him a tray and he drew his letters. When it was his turn, he put on the board. . . well, let’s just say it was a six letter word for an anatomical body part. Both mom (so pretty and prim ) and Aunt Lois (so ladylike) protested firmly but Uncle Chuck had covered a triple word score with the last letter and wasn’t about to lose points. But there are young children present someone hissed but Uncle Chuck was having fun and beating both his sisters at Scrabble. Just about that time, my cousin Al who was about eight strolled into the room and looked at the board over his dad’s shoulder. “Hey dad,” he offered helpfully. “You forgot the “r” in “Virginia!” The next year, my mom decided canasta would be the official Thanksgiving Day game.
When our kids were little, Ken and I would host Thanksgiving at our house. We’d fuss and decorate and shop for weeks, and loved having everyone over for the day. The two Thanksgivings that I was pregnant were when I learned that only non-pregnant males should be given the task of preparing a raw turkey for roasting. Then there was the year Mattie had a cold. I was holding him on my hip as we made trips from the kitchen to the dining room with all the food, and he sneezed into the green bean casserole. No worries. Ken dug out the top two inches of beans, whisked the casserole into the dinig room and no one was the wiser.
Ken’s mom had Thanksgiving a few years ago, and was in a tizzy when we arrived. She’d burnt the rolls. Her squash was dry. But when Ken checked the turkey, he found a bigger problem: there was a glistening white uncooked turkey in the oven. Mom swore she’d turned the oven on to the right temperature but this baby was barely warm. After much discussion, she cranked it up to 500 degrees and pulled the roaster out every 20 minutes or so to baste the bird. Unfortunately, she slid the roaster back into the oven without sliding the rack, and the roaster – turkey, juices and all - fell into the back of the back of the 500 degree oven. There was much steam and hissing followed by much cussing. The kids and I stood helplessly by trying not to laugh as mom and Ken set about capturing a round, slippery bird using two long wooden spoons. When we finally ate at 7PM, the turkey was presented in microwave oven-sized portions. The potatoes were dry, the green beans were wrinkly and the yams were congealed and the turkey leftovers went straight down the disposal.
Thanksgiving this year promises to be a bit less hectic. Gone are the hours in the kitchen since it’s difficult to cook while on crutches. I will help Ken make pies (he is the Pie King in this family).The kids will be here later on and we’ll be eating Thanksgiving dinner tonight at Mom Keener’s. I have every expectation that dinner will be yummy and delicious. Then on Saturday, we’ll head to Applegate Farm for the big Baker family Thanksgiving. I’ll probably look like a Weeble on crutches by the time Thanksgiving is over, but I have much for which to be thankful. A big family to celebrate with that includes parents and aunts and uncles and kids and neices and a nephew, all of whom still love to be together. One terrific husband who changes from a total “guy” into a thoughtful and tireless nurse when needed. Amazing friends who bring such love and laughter into my life. Charlie and Sammy, the VelcroDogs, who are always ready for a snuggle. Heck, I’m even thankful for Frankenfoot. As inconvenient as surgery and crutches are, one day soon I will go back to walking wherever I want whenever I want. That in itself is a blessing beyond measure.
So wherever you are today, whoever you’re celebrating with, I wish you a bounty of Thanksgiving blessings.
Even if you’re in Virginia.