Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving -- Then and Now

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.
                                                      ---Julia Cameron

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.


Sam Hoffer @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

Beautifully written Glenda. Meakin and I send happy Thanksgiving greetings your way.

DJan said...

What a fine, poignant post. I am sending you cyber hugs and wishing you a fine day filled with love and light. :-)

Barbara Gabriel said...

Thank you for a wonderful read on this day. I love reading your reminiscences of your family. Love to you, my friend.

Glenda Beall said...

Thanks, Sam, DJan and Barbara. Another Thanksgiving has passed and I am snuggled in my warm house eating some delicious chocolates brought to me by a friend and having a cup of coffee. Gay and I have watched three movies on the Hallmark Channel all about Christmas Trees. We have laughed and cried which is what you do when you watch Hallmark movies at Christmas time.
We had a beautiful day here in the mountains of NC, sunny and cold. Hugs to all of you. Stay warm.

Lise said...

What a lovely description of the Thanksgivings of your past...filled with love and sweetness (and full bellies all day). Hugs to you as you celebrate this holiday season in a new way. I have no doubt your memories will stay strong while creating the here and now...I'm so happy to have met you Glenda!

Anonymous said...

Great minds think alike!! I too have been thinking of the busy-ness of Thanksgivings past and all the people who are no longer here to sit at the table with us. I miss them all. Yet I remain grateful for the blessings of today and enjoyed our quiet and more peaceful Thanksgiving. Thanks for sharing your memories.

Gay said...

Your story takes me back to those fun filled holidays when all of us were young, healthy and no one had died. we had wonderful times and you captured them so well.
Thanks, big sister.

Glenda Beall said...

Lee, I know your holidays for several years have been difficult with your mother's illness. I'm glad you all had a peaceful Thanksgiving this year. Thanks for commenting. I am enjoying your blog so much.

Glenda Beall said...

Gay, thank you for coming up and spending Thanksgiving with me. We had such fun, didn't we? Live in the moment - that is what I am trying to do now.In this third act, we still have so much to enjoy and to do.

Anonymous said...

This brings back many wonderful memories of Thanksgiving dinner with my family. Thank you for posting.

Vagabonde said...

What a lovely, lovely piece of writing, and told with so much feeling. Your Thanksgivings were certainly happy with all your family. I, of course, never had Thanksgiving in France since this is an American holiday and never had tasted cranberries before. We had roast turkey but for New Year’s Eve, with the traditional chestnut stuffing. But now that I am here I really enjoy Thanksgiving. I have lately tried to learn its history, and am a bit sad that most of it is myth – I mean about the early Thanksgiving (I read the history on Native American sites,) but it is a lovely tradition now. When my mother came from Paris to visit back in the 1980s, in July, I cooked a full Thanksgiving dinner for her so she would know what it involves, and she did like it, but it felt funny to eat turkey with all the trimming in 98 degree temperature. I am pleased that you enjoyed your Thanksgiving this year too.

Glenda Beall said...

The holidays always bring back memories, Abbie. Thanks for being a reader of this blog. I enjoyed your holiday letter on your blog.

Glenda Beall said...

Vagabonde, We didn't really have an established Thanksgiving holiday until a U.S.president, I can't remember who, declared it in the last century,I think. I know that in my lifetime it has been a major holiday here. I know much of the myth we hear is untrue, but it makes a good story. Glad you could fix a traditional dinner for your mom even if it was in summer.