I was trying to remember my earliest memory of Thanksgiving growing up. Instead, all I could seem to come up with was a hodgepodge of celebrations all kind of slung together with no real ability to distinguish one from the other.
One thing I did realize, sadly, is that I can no longer hear my grandmother’s voice. I can still hear Young Tom to be sure, (if you ever knew Young Tom, you’d know why) but after 30 years, the sound of her voice has left me. Fortunately, my visions of her are as vivid as ever and the smells? Oh good Lord! I can smell homemade stuffing in the oven and sweet potatoes, too, as I type this. I can see the condensation that would build up on the double set of windows along the back of the kitchen when it was alive with all the activity.
And I remember a warmth to the room and that house that I’ve never really felt anywhere else. It wasn’t a feeling felt there often; Young Tom was too difficult a creature to allow that. And I remember absolutely no celebrations at all where I sat down to a Thanksgiving meal with just my parents . Strange, isn’t it?
I laughed last night when the weather report on the news triggered another Thanksgiving memory. Even when my parents weren’t together, and for years after their divorce, the mother retained some loose ties to his family and we would occasionally go there for the holiday. Thanksgiving 1980 was one such time. (And according to our local weathercaster, we saw a record high of 76 degrees on T’giving that year.) We were going to my aunt's. She was never much of a cook, so I was curious as to how this would play out. As one my cousins so eloquently put it, she knew two temperatures in cooking: High and Off.
We weren’t supposed to go there until late in the afternoon. But about mid morning, the phone rang. I heard the mother launch into a conversation about food preparation that finally ended with her asking: “Well, honey, why do you need to know all this? Where’s Aunt B?”
This caught my attention. “The hospital? What’s wrong?” This kept my attention and frightened me. “A snake? What do you mean? A snake?”
A what? While they lived in a semi-rural area, you don't expect snakes, especially not in late November! My aunt had apparently gone out on her back porch where the unseasonably warm temps had encouraged a snake to sun itself. Not expecting to find a snake there, and obviously not seeing it, my aunt stepped on the snake – who promptly bit her on the ankle
It was a non-poisonous snake as it turned out and my aunt was O.K. While she was at the hospital, my mom commandeered the kitchen, taking responsibility for dinner for God knows how many guests off the shoulders of my hapless cousins.
My uncle, long known for his dry sense of humor, had the line of the day which would become legendary amongst the family. Some hours after dinner and with everyone in something of a turkified coma state, he told my recuperating aunt:
“Damn, B. You’ll do anything to get out of cooking a meal.”