As with all things, there is a time of dormancy, a time of germination, a time of fruition and harvest. We must be patient with these things in our heart. We must develop patience and an open mind---a very open mind.
As Thanksgiving approaches this week, memories crowd my mind. I am taken back to when I was in my teens. My brothers and older sister, June, were married and had children. June and Stan had arrived for the holidays and would be with us all week.
Mother worked hard cooking for everyone, but it made her deliciously happy. Having her kids around lit up her life. Every meal was festive as we gathered around the dining table, not the smaller table where Gay and I usually ate with Mother and Daddy.
Stan, who was a native of South Dakota, had come into our family like a carpenter bee. He drilled through the barriers of diversity and made himself one of us. He tunneled into the hearts of my mother, my father and my brothers and they admired and adored him. Gay and I had fallen in love with him when we were little kids. He made us feel so special.
Our Thanksgiving dinner consisted traditionally of roasted turkey, a large pan of cornbread dressing with oysters, and one smaller pan for those of us who didn’t like oysters. June made a special cranberry relish, but I favored the canned jellied variety. Always a picky eater when I was a kid, I have changed somewhat, but am not too adventurous even now.
If you like the fresh made cranberry sauce, you must read this post and see these wonderful pictures at My Carolina Kitchen.
My sisters-in-law, all good cooks, brought side dishes, casseroles, vegetables, and desserts. Salita made the best pies and cakes. With such an array of sweets, we often had a taste of each of them. Yvonne’s sweet potato casserole made with brown sugar could have taken center stage on the dessert table, but was ladled out beside the turkey and dressing.
With the addition of a small table, our dining table seated fourteen adults. The younger children sat together in the family room. The women bustled around, in and out of the kitchen, making sure we had a correct number of places set with proper eating utensils and napkins. Someone took a head count for iced tea – sweet, of course. Nothing was formal at our house, but we didn’t use paper plates or plastic forks, not until many years later when the third generation proved too many for mother’s china and flatware collection.
After Barry and I married, we wanted to spend the holidays with my family and with his parents. After our meal with my folks, we climbed into the car and headed to Rockmart, Georgia about three hours away, where we had another large dinner cooked by his mother, Helen, who was as different from my mother as night is from day. Helen set her round antique table with lovely china, real silver, and cloth napkins. No boisterous children or loud conversation marred our meal. She prepared one dessert, usually a cake with ice cream and we ate that later, in the den, with coffee. We went to bed stuffed with food and with love.
|Barry Beall and his mother, Helen Alexander Beall|
Football was always a large factor at Thanksgiving. The men in my family were huge Georgia football fans. It was hard to tear them away from the TV if we happened to be eating at the same time the game was on. I can remember when they would have two TV sets on, watching two games at once. This was before DVRs.
Looking back, I realize how we took for granted the good life we had. We were all healthy and happy. We couldn’t have enjoyed a meal more, the laughter, and the closeness of loved ones. While I might have been aware that one or the other of my brothers’ wives was in a snit about something, I was grateful that all were on their best behavior and never marred our day of Thanksgiving.
Now they are gone, my parents, Helen, June and Stan, Yvonne, and three of my brothers. Now also gone is my husband, and I am left adrift to find thankfulness and gratitude where I can. But I do. I am grateful for all those wonderful memories, for the love I shared with my family, and I’ll always have that.
I am thankful for Gay, my youngest sister, who arrived today. Tomorrow we will join old friends for a traditional dinner of turkey and all the fixings. We will laugh and tell stories about the old days, and express our thanks for the years we have had together and the love we have for each other.
Life has changed. Everything is different, but I am thankful I can find joy in what is now.
I wish for you, my faithful readers, a happy Thanksgiving wherever you may be.