Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. I loved cooking the big dinner, with prep starting days in advance. We had to make the pies at least two days early so we had plenty of time to test them and make sure they were good enough for the big day. Too bad if I had to make more on Wednesday night.
Today I thought I would look back and share a Thanksgiving piece I wrote here in 2006. (I can’t believe I’ve been blogging that long. Wow!) Anyway, the following has been used in bits and pieces here, and in the column I wrote for the Plano Star Courier many moons ago, and is part of a book that I hope someday to get published.
There’s an old Thanksgiving song that starts out, “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go…”
When I was a child, my Dad would break into that song as we crossed the Pennsylvania border into West Virginia on our annual pilgrimage from Michigan to celebrate the Holiday with his family. “The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh, through the white and drifting snow…”
The closer we got to his childhood home, the heavier his foot rested on the gas pedal as our Chevy station wagon climbed the hills on twisting roads and flew on the downside. His rich baritone voice belted the song, and in my imagination we were on that sleigh behind dapple grays in their rhythmic trot. I could hear the clump of their hooves and feel the blowing snow bite my cheeks as we were carried along.
It was magic, pure and simple. A magic that continued for the few days that we stayed in that ‘otherworld.’
Today as those memories float pleasantly through my mind, I can almost smell the wonderful aromas of sage dressing, pumpkin pie, and mulled cider that permeated my grandmother’s house. And I can hear the bustle of activity accompanied by short bursts of conversation among the women in the kitchen. The front bedroom is where the men gathered and brought out instruments. Their music became another soundtrack.
My brothers, sisters, and I would join other cousins in the back bedroom in between our numerous trips outside. Our biggest challenge was to see who could roll down the hill and retain the most amount of snow, turning ourselves into living snowpeople. The second biggest challenge was to see who would have the honor of receiving the drumsticks. They were doled out on a ‘merit’ system based loosely on which of us waited the most patiently for the great announcement, “Dinner’s Ready.”
In the early years of married life I found it a formidable task to create Thanksgiving Days that would live in a similar glory for my children.
We were living in Texas, so mountains and snow were out of the question, and my singing never could quite match my father’s. I didn’t possess even a tenth of the culinary skills of my grandmother and my aunts, so the meal would probably be lacking. And we were more than a thousand miles away from cousins to help distract my children from their impatience.
But despite those limits, we managed to muddle through. I did manage a passable dinner and my husband actually raved about the German dressing. The pies were a major hit, all ten of them, and everyone was willing to eat the broccoli for the promise of a second piece of pie. And after cheering the Dallas Cowboys to another victory, most years, we would all tumble outside for a family game of touch-football.
In sifting through all these random memories now, I realize that the memory itself is not what is important. What is, is the fact that we have memories and they don’t happen by accident. No matter what we do to ‘mark’ these important occasions, it is vital that we do ‘mark’ them. Even if our process doesn’t live up to a Martha Stewart image or our own fond remembrances of childhood.
So here’s to our memories, no matter how we create them, and may yours be as wonderful as mine.