Thanksgiving is a two-day long celebration for my family. Due to conflicts with some of my siblings’ in-laws, we decided many years ago to celebrate Thanksgiving for our extended family on Friday rather than Thursday. This allows me to get to prepare a special meal for my own family on Thursday. We have often invited guests who have no local family to join us for this special day. This year was no different.
As I began preparing some foods Wednesday evening, memories of past holidays flooded my mind and my kitchen. I made my paternal grandmother’s ambrosia recipe and thought about the wonderful times I sat at her table. That woman was the quintessential southern cook! That table now sits in my dining room, bequeathed to me when she passed away many years ago. Many family members wanted that table, already a prized antique, but she had written in her will that it was to go only to me. She loved me.
I also made a delicious seven-layer salad, another of my grandmother’s recipes, but one that had been given to me by an aunt. She had lovingly hand-written this, and many other, recipes to give me when my husband and I married. She wanted to make sure I knew how to cook for him and our future children. My favorite cookbook is a photo album in which I have assembled many such recipes from our family. Each time I open it, I recall a time when I made this dish or that one, what the situation was when I prepared it, and who enjoyed it with us.
When it came time to stuff the turkey, I pulled my maternal grandmother’s recipe out of that cookbook and made some of the yummiest stuffing in the south. Just the right combination of dried bread, butter, eggs, poultry seasoning, sage, and broth works every time. What’s odd about this recipe is that there are few measurements involved. The trick is in knowing the taste and sampling it to see if you get it just right. Because I have known that taste for a very long time, I never miss. I hope I can share this with future generations in my family so that they can enjoy it, too.
My sister had brought her family with her to my house on Thursday, and we had some friends here also. There were five teenaged through early 20-something young men in my home, reducing the mental age of the two adult men to roughly 16 years old. This led to a boisterous day filled with showing off their various shotguns, rifles, and handguns, target shooting, and some hunting (they were just too loud and scared off all the deer). Of course, we recalled the time that one of my nephew’s had climbed on my older son’s back and then fallen through the drywall upstairs. We laughed as we regaled how we had had to fix this huge hole quickly since my husband’s family was visiting the next day.
Friday was at my mom and dad’s home with the rest of our extended family. After dinner, my niece and I sat down to work on wedding plans together. She and her fiancé are getting married in the spring, so we had to pick colors and flowers. After a few minutes, my mom pulled her aside quietly. A few minutes later, she called for me to join them. She told me that my niece wanted to try on my wedding dress.
I was shocked! I thought my dress had been destroyed in a house fire over twenty years ago. I ran upstairs and there it was. I vividly remembered the emotions we had experienced when my mother’s home had burned. One of my nephews was still an infant, and had been upstairs napping only a few minutes before the electrical fire began. Because my brother was a member of the local volunteer fire department, he was allowed to go into the house once the fire was under control and bring out items of sentimental value. I had not seen him bring out my dress.
While my niece looked stunning in that dress, it’s not the dress for her. But what a joy it was to see her wearing it and recalling memories from the last time it was worn. I love that dress, puffy sleeves, bow on the butt, and all. Tears flowed as I looked at that beautiful, yet dated, dress. I rocked that puffy sleeve even better than Lady Diana Spencer had when she was married.
Later in the evening, the girls in our family gathered around the table to plan our mom and dad’s fiftieth wedding anniversary party. My mom shared the story of how they had traveled across half the country to meet each other’s parents and for my dad to ask for my mom’s hand in marriage. My grandfather had refused! It really is such a sweet story, and one that I had not heard in many years. I’m looking forward to planning this event for them – every single detail.
This Thanksgiving and holiday season, I’m so thankful for the memories. Even the bad ones serve to remind me how fortunate we’ve been in the long run. But the good ones remind me how very blessed we are and are like sweet nectar to the soul. Thanks, God, for the memories.