When I was a child, we would often go to West Virginia for Thanksgiving. My father would feel the pull to visit his childhood home, and his kinfolk, and my sister and I would go every other year, as dictated in divorce papers.
Back then, I didn’t know about divorce papers, or what my mother did while we were gone and she was alone. All I cared about was getting to Grandma’s house where snowy hillsides waited for little bodies to roll down and become snow-people. And all the delicious food, and..
During the drive from Michigan, my father would always sing, “Over the River and Through the Woods, to Grandmother’s House we go. The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifting snow.”
We wound around snow-capped mountains on narrow roads, carved deep into rock-strewn hillsides, but I was never afraid. I’d pretend our old Chevy was a sleigh and in my imagination two white horses were pulling us. The horses were sturdy steeds, they would get us there safely.
The drive was long, but excitement and imagination filled the hours, and then we were there.
At my Grandmother’s house where relatives waited to share a veritable feast with us; turkey, mashed potatoes, beans – lots of beans because we always had lots of beans at this grandmother’s house – and a wide variety of pies and cobblers. I’m sure there were other things served, but I don’t remember everything we ate. What I remember most is what filled our hearts. The stories. The laughter. The music. The love that a little girl found at Grandma’s house.
That kind of gathering that creates beautiful memories is what holidays are all about, and sadly, this year many of us will not be gathering with family. For some, like me, there isn’t going to be anyone to share a meal and some stories and laughter with.
This is the first year that I won’t be preparing the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I won’t even be making any pumpkin pies. When talking to one of my sons the other day, I asked if he was getting a pumpkin pie to go with the dinner that’s planned for him and his wife. He said no.
“Why? I thought you loved pumpkin pie.”
“I do. I love your pumpkin pie.”
That made me wish I could go to the store and get everything to make them a pie, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. Cases of the COVID are rising in the city where I live, so I’m being super cautious.
Perhaps this is a good time for all of us to be super cautious. It pains my heart that I will not be with at least part of my family tomorrow, but the day will pass, and being alone won’t kill me. Being exposed to the virus could.
I don’t want this blog post to be a downer, so now I’ll let my good friend Slim Randles share a bit of humor with us.
Steve will have Thanksgiving dinner over at Doc’s and Mrs. Doc’s this year, and any number of his friends are grateful for that. Steve is one heckuva cowboy and trainer of young colts, and a good friend to all, but he’d never make it as a dinner host.
Very few Thanksgiving dinners achieve legendary status, but “Steve’s Thanksgiving” was certainly one of them. Some said it happened because he’s lived alone and cooked meals for himself for so many years. Some say he has worked alone for so long that he isn’t of a coordinating mind. The answer could be buried in the middle there somewhere. Steve himself isn’t certain.
It all happened early in Fall a couple of years ago when Steve completed his cabin up in the mountains here. He’d even finished the turret. In about September of that year, he’d started cleaning the place up on his infrequent visits, because he just knew somewhere inside that he’d created a modest monument there and wanted to share it with his friends. Naturally.
So, back at the ranch bunkhouse down in the valley, he’d studied up on how to roast a turkey: what to put on it, how to thaw it, how to tell when it’s done, all that stuff.
Then he invited his friends for Thanksgiving dinner, up at the cabin. He told each one that he’d be fixing a turkey dinner up there and to come on up and have some fun. And each of them, in turn, asked Steve what they should bring for the dinner.
“Oh, I don’t care,” he’d said, “you know … whatever you’d like, I guess.”
He said that to Doc and Mrs. Doc. And Dud and Emily. And Herb. And Bert and Maizie. And Marvin and Margie. And Mavis at the Mule Barn.
That Thanksgiving Day was a sparkler … crisp sunshine, Fall colors. Oh man, it was great!
And the turkey was in that wood-fired Home Comfort range and looking brown and juicy when the friends started to arrive. They’d each made the considerable drive up the mountain to the end of the road, then walked in the last hundred yards to the warm and cozy little cabin.
And each of them … every one of them … brought a pumpkin pie.
Turkey and pumpkin pie. Traditional favorites on Thanksgiving. But … strangely enough, after three of the pies had been consumed, there were still some left over.
But hey, that turkey turned out all right. And this year, Steve’s going over to Doc’s and Mrs. Doc’s for dinner.
Mrs. Doc told him to bring biscuits.
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