Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ghost of Thanksgivings Past

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.”


Mama Martha said...

I can still remember all the sights & smells of Thanksgiving at my Granny's house. I hear her calling me to come run some errand for her. I've kept several letters and things that she wrote, her handwriting was atrocious!, these bring back the memories whenever they start to fade. Thanks for sharing and have a blessed and safe turkey day.

Ty'sMommy said...

Oh yes, the memories of the holidays. I miss that so much! Great...now I wanna go home... :)

SmilingJudy said...


sewwhat? said...

Since I don't have memories of Grandmas, (mine were gone by the time I was 4), I only remember Mama (note to oldies but goodies, wasn't that the name of one of the first family sitcoms on TV?) You young things weren't born then. But the smells that came from mother's kitchen will remain for life. They say smells bring back the deepest of memories.

Ann said...

I have no idea what my earliest holiday memories are...wow. But, I DO love/always loved the smell/act of baking Christmas Cookies (well, and eating the dough - OH the dough)...

NV said...

MamaM-- Amazing how that stuff never completely goes away, isn't it? You have a great one, too!

Ty'smom -- Sorry. But just think, you're creating a whole tradition and a new set of memories just for Ty. :-)

Judy -- Yeah. A snake!!

sewwhat -- And it was a movie, too (with Irene Dunn). And my mama cries every time it's on. :(

Ann -- Yup. My gramma would use the leftover edges of the pie crusts and make little cinnamon twists for me.

Kay said...

The story is the best part. I love family traditional stories like that. Happy Turkey Day!

Vicki said...

Your uncle should have been paid heavily for that comment. Great comments like that, that just lighten situations, deserve high payment.