Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thanksgiving Memories

I have always loved Thanksgiving. Most of them have been crisp, cool days with lots of sunshine.
The first one I actually  have a clear memory of is from the very early 80's which would put me at about 6 or 7 years old.

We were at my Grandparent's house at the lake. I don't remember much, but I do remember all of us sitting around the long table which came standard with my Grandma's vinyl tablecloth and tall, white Tupperware salt and pepper shakers.

I asked Grandma for the sweet potatoes. I despised them and she knew it. But it wasn't the sweet potatoes I was after, it was the mountain of fluffy white marshmallows on top! They had the perfectly toasted peaks and looked like something you would find at a campfire. Grandma was on to me and insisted that I could not scoop just the marshmallows, I had to also scoop (and eat) the sweet potatoes. Well that put a bit of a damper on things but I did it. I ate them and enjoyed those delicious marshmallows on top.

As I got older my mom, brother and I would spend time at my Aunt and Uncles house for Thanksgiving dinner. It was always a good time. My Aunt had a hair salon in her basement. My cousins and I would play in there fixing each others hair sometimes. Or we'd play with their baby dolls or Strawberry Shortcake playhouse.
On the dinner table was always a feast! My aunt made the same rolls each year. I found them delicious and fresh tasting although she always thought they "turned out wrong". Another thing she always made was Broccoli Cheese Rice or green rice and it was divine.
My Mom's famous tradition was Watergate Salad. It brings joy to my heart right now thinking of her Watergate Salad. She made it every year and I always ate so much of it. When I grew up and started my own Thanksgiving dinners I always made it. But now I make it for Christmas dinner instead.

By 4th grade I was living with my dad. He comes to my house for dinner now, but back then rather than a dinner at home, we would always make rounds visiting family and friends.
I loved when we would go to my Aunt  Joyce's house. Her husband was my Dad's big brother and they had 8 children. I could barely keep track of all my cousins names but I did enjoy seeing them. The food there, oh, heavenly. My aunt made a Thanksgiving feast like no other. When you walked in the home where they raised their 8 children, you just felt love and smelled turkey! My favorite thing to eat was her homemade Chocolate Pie.

As I got older, my Dad had a few different relationships with some really lovely ladies. Jo is one near to my heart and some of my best Thanksgiving memories are at her Mother's house. Her name was Ruth and she was like an angel just beaming with light and love. We'd spend all day at her house and her meal was outstanding. Her home was so lovely. There was a formal living room and then a wood paneled family room with orange shag carpet. I remember feeling so cozy curled up in that room after eating turkey dinner. It felt like home to me.

When I met my husband in July of 2000, who knew that Thanksgiving would be such a sacred holiday to us? That November I came here to Arkansas to visit him. It was my first time seeing the state that would soon become my home.
We had our very first Thanksgiving together during that trip. It is a memory so dear to my heart, my eyes are filling with tears at this very moment. To think that after that we have built such a life together. So full of tradition, family and holidays. He cooked a turkey for me that day and has done so every year since! No wonder I fell madly in love with him and moved here to be with him just a few months after that.

Each year got better and better. Our first Thanksgiving together after that was in our little trailer house. We took pictures that day on a disposable camera. I cherish those photos because they capture all the little things that my mind has forgotten. I love looking back on that time in our lives.
We ate our dinner on the fold out card table my Mom gave us. It wouldn't be long before we started a family to add to our Thanksgiving days.

My  husband had a very special tradition of his own. He would call his mom every year on Thanksgiving morning around 5 a.m. for turkey cooking tips!  She would advise him on how to cook the turkey to make it perfectly moist and delicious. He loved those phone calls with her.
One year we were living in an old farm house. His mom came  for Thanksgiving and stayed a whole week with us. She shared many recipes with me. We loved to cook together and I don't say that about....anyone! I usually want to be all alone in my kitchen. But with her, it was different.  On a past visit she brought her Kitchen Aid mixer with her and taught me how to make Divinity for Christmas. This Thanksgiving with her was special because little did we know, it was the last one we would have with her. She went to Heaven less than a year after that very lovely Thanksgiving visit.

Each Thanksgiving now is a little different, and a little better. Now days, our home is filled with kids holiday artwork and paper chains. The whole week before Thanksgiving is spent tweaking the menu, shopping for ingredients. Baking pies. Pulling out my recipe cards and mulling over them with joy in my heart.

Thanksgiving to me is more than an American holiday. It is about love. It is about memories. It is about family.