It’s three days until Thanksgiving. The traffic is picking up. There’s a buzz in the air. Plans are being made for the big day. Food fests are planned for the office.
There’s an electric atmosphere as turkeys are discussed. How big? How many guests? It’s time to start thawing the guest of honor. What’s on the menu? Same stuff as always. Dressing, giblet gravy, cranberry sauce. Candied yams, green bean casserole, maybe a squash casserole. Homemade rolls. Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie, and Sweet Potato Pie for dessert. I’ll have a slice of all three thank you.
Today, I am thinking about Thanksgivings of the past.
After I married, the Rutland family hosted Thanksgiving at their farm. It was an affair full of chaos. The turkey was never put on in time for a noon meal, even though noon was the appointed hour. There was never enough chairs to seat everyone—and Mammy (Mrs. Rutland) wanted every single person at the table TOGETHER. She had special benches made so we could put the leaf in the table and stretch bodies out on each side. There was barely room to turn around in their tiny kitchen—there was no formal dining room in their little house.
In the early years when her daddy was still living, Pa was in charge of the dressing. He had been a cook in the Navy during World War I. Dressing was his specialty. And making it was a family affair with all of us around the table, adding the onion and peppers, the tabasco, the pimentos, the salt and pepper, the giblet—all done on Pa’s instructions. He would taste and stir, “No, not ready yet. It needs a little salt.” Once he was satisfied, the bird was stuffed and put in the oven.
Those are great Thanksgiving memories.
There was one thing for certain, a lot of love when into the food on that table. We ate until we couldn’t breathe, then walked out on the front porch and sat around in the rockers or the porch swing. My brother-in-law had usually been hunting in the early morning hours and his hunting spoils would be the talk on the porch. We took walks back to the river or took off to eat dinner at another relative’s house that night.
Later on, after I married my Air Force guy, Thanksgiving was spent overseas. Sometimes it was just our immediate family at the table. More often than not, we invited anyone who wanted to join us.
Since we are the only country that celebrates Thanksgiving, it was not a national holiday. But we celebrated in USA style. Once when the squadron was deployed while living in Italy, I hosted Thanksgiving dinner at my house for anyone who wanted to come. We had two turkeys, one baked and one deep fried. Everyone brought their own special Thanksgiving dishes made like their Mamma or Grandmama. People came from everywhere. Young airmen, their wives and children, the pilot’s wives and children, and a few other guests that someone invited along the way. One person arrived for duty that morning and was driven from the airport straight to my house.
At ten o’clock that night, people were still sitting in my living room. We had Thanksgiving at noon and then again at six that night. Some people didn’t go home.
Something happens when you are off in another land. You need togetherness.
Then even later on, when we lived in the Middle East, we hosted the first Thanksgiving meal for everyone employed with my husband’s company. The first year I cooked for 43 people.
It didn’t matter who you were, you were invited. Our neighbors from Australia and Britain couldn’t wait to join us. We had Emirati attend. Many had never attended a Thanksgiving celebration and thought it was something really special.
We had people from America, Spain, France, Jordan, Turkey, Australia, Britain, Denmark, South Africa, India, and Kenya. The last year we hosted Thanksgiving we had 57 people attend.
It was a special time.
What I discovered about Thanksgiving was that people were truly thankful. The spirit of the day was shared among family, and at times, only among friends—our Air Force family or our work family took the place of our family back home.
How I would love to be back on that front porch on Thursday, rubbing my full belly, my feet touching the porch floor easing the swing back and forth, hearing the laughter off in the distance, the nieces and nephews running around the front yard squealing in delight.
Those were the days.
I am thankful for those days. That I grew up in a time that family meant everything and holidays were something to look forward to—not to rush about fighting traffic and crowds. Nights of making fudge or decorating cookies were entertainment. Learning how to cook a turkey or dressing from the special family recipe was a cherished experience.
Today, I am once again thankful for family. Everyone is not here anymore. There are empty places at the table.
But the memories linger.
Thanksgiving is in the air. Can’t you smell it?