One by one, I have tried to contact all my siblings this Thanksgiving morning. My brother called. I reached out to some on Facebook, some I texted or emailed. I wished them all a happy and great day today. I even reached a couple of old and dear friends.
Starting a new tradition is emotionally wrenching, so I wasn’t ready to talk to some of them on the phone. Nostalgia can be a good thing, if I restrict myself to memories of good times. Those are my two goals, to start anew, and to go to only happy recollections. To leave behind and sadness.
In that spirit, here are some weird and true Thanksgiving stories. I really like the one where one year, Mama and I decided to hold back at least one pecan pie, because we always seemed to get left out. We hid it on top of the sideboard, so we would have some pie to go with our leftovers after the crowd left. We forgot about it and it was discovered at Christmas time.
There was the time my sister Jean lost her ham. We searched through all the groceries she had just bought, searched her deep freeze, looked everywhere for it. She had to drive all the way back to town to get another one. I wonder what lucky person got the ham she must have left in the store?
Mama and I always put the turkey in the oven about four am. The giblets already simmering on the stove, I would commence assembling my dressing. My little brother always made a point to come sit in the kitchen and harass me while I was multi-tasking. As fast as I could pull meat off bones for the gravy, he would sit there and eat it.
My brother is a good cook. He usually makes his famous apple dumplings for Thanksgiving.
Lots of people preferred my sister Debbie’s dressing to mine, and I secretly liked it better too. She also made homemade macaroni and cheese.
We always had to buy a whole tub of whipped cream just for my brother. He got his very own. It was never determined whether he really bothered to have any pie underneath the great mound on his plate.
My sister Cathy always made sweet potato casserole, the favorite dish of my stepdad.
Along with ham, Jean would always bring her seven layer salad. Again, a separate one would have to be made and set aside for my brother. He got lots of favors like that.
My baby sister Teresa would bring a casserole, and sometimes a cake.
Angie would always come rushing in with ingredients and make her stuff right there in Mama’s kitchen, on top of the dressing, turkey, gravy, and other things we were trying to get ready. Then she would sneak samples of everything.
Sister-in-law Tammy usually brought fresh peas and butter beans from the garden, sooo good.
My oldest sister Charlotte would make the cornbread (best in the world) for the dressing, and make all the pies.
The gravy, made in a huge gumbo-size pot, was Mama’s prerogative, until her eyesight went away. Then it became a group project of hilarious and dangerous consequences, with Mama shouting at us what to do next, and huge clouds of steam rising, and constant stirring until all of us were exhausted.
This entire, enormous meal would somehow be ready around noon. Grace would be said, and plates filled, while the real dickering and jockeying for seats began. The dining room only held eight, with a couple more squeezed in on the bench seat, so everybody had to fight for good spots in the living room. Sometimes we could go on the back porch. Then it was a race to get seconds or get to the desserts first.
Utterly exhausted, the cooks usually didn’t get to really enjoy the food until that evening, or the next day. Washing up, storing leftovers in the fridge (Everybody graciously left their dishes at Mama’s, so it would be more convenient to drop in the next day to enjoy the leftovers, thus ensuring that I would end up washing their dishes and containers too.)
Kids, grandkids, in-laws, all told, over forty people would be fed.
Good times. Sitting around afterward, talking, arguing, making fun of each other, trying to get Mama to grin. Great times. Good food, good people. Beautiful, healthy, smart nieces and nephews, most of whom have their own kids now, making me a great aunt.
I love them all, every one.