Old Thanksgiving memories

Courtesy of  Robert S Donovan via Flickr

Don’t mess with tradition! Courtesy of Robert S Donovan via Flickr

Our Thanksgiving celebration is much more sedate than it used to be. My husband’s children and my brother’s son live out-of-state and rarely come home for Thanksgiving. That leaves a small collection of relatives and friends with benefits (dinner benefits, not those other ones).

This year we have a small group. I am not complaining. We are alive and healthy but it made me think about Thanksgivings of past years.

When my mother was alive, everyone came to her house. We ate at 1 p.m. or so it was planned. Someone was always late, usually my brother.  That meant my mother was slightly crazed. (Now where did I get that trait?) She had a small house without a dining room so we crowded in a large kitchen. It didn’t matter. It tasted the same.

There were years when there were small children. There was no children’s table. They were squashed in among the adults. Then as they got older the conversation became interesting. There is nothing like a gaggle of teenagers for eye-popping conversation.

Mom would cook most everything. Sometimes someone brought dessert. She was a great cook and everything was perfectly timed. She never burnt the biscuits. (That has become a family tradition since I took over. The pesky things get done before the timer goes off!)

One of the more memorable years happened when she decided to go to Hawaii over Thanksgiving. We couldn’t believe it. She wasn’t going to cook for us? How selfish is that! (This was the very first time she was going to fly in an airplane and she was in her 60s. What a fuss we made!)

I made most of the dinner which we had at her house — everything except the gravy. My niece’s husband offered to make the gravy while I was doing something else. He was fiddling at the stove but I didn’t pay attention. He is a great cook. How can you mess up gravy!

It wasn’t thickening enough to suit him so he added more flour and before you know it we had gravy pudding to plop on our stuffing. We laughed through that dinner!

Some years we tried a new recipe. They were not well received. At our house, it’s a “don’t mess with the traditional food” attitude. Don’t even try slipping oranges or nuts in the cranberry sauce! Straight from the Ocean Spray can — no store brands please.

There was one Thanksgiving when my brother was supposed to make pumpkin pies. I don’t remember why but it didn’t happen. On the way he stopped at a store and was unable to get pumpkin so he picked up a minced meat pie. Eyow! Only he ate it. What a ruckus that was.

Families grow up and move around. Kids have other things to do. Football rivalries are scheduled. People with in-laws and out-laws rotate holidays. Now we have to factor in shopping on Thanksgiving.

I believe in enjoying what you have now. It may be different next year.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Most of these sentiments were penned a few years back. Those old feelings of family never go away!

35 thoughts on “Old Thanksgiving memories

  1. I’ve been offline for days! Catching up, now. Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving, Kate. We always have cranberry sauce out of the can; only 1 of my brothers likes it so most of it gets tossed after dinner. And, always, always, always string bean casserole with those fried onions on top. We wouldn’t think of not having that.

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  2. I love your big family memories of Thanksgiving. My family was small. Still is. But when I was a kid there were only 4 of us. My favorite memory was the year Mom remembered to serve the peas right after we finished dessert. 🙂

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  3. I love the nostalgia of the holidays, including that canned cranberry sauce. Of course to day I go with the Organic can, but it is a must at the table.
    I’m thinking of how brave it was for your mom to hang up that apron and hit Hawaii for the holiday … badass.

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    • I couldn’t believe she did it. She loved the traditional holidays. Back then though, she did all the work except for dessert so I don’t blame her (from my current age perspective). She was a character.

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  4. Well, I can see why your mother would chose a trip to Hawaii over cooking a HUGE meal that takes hours to prepare, but is gone in under a half an hour.
    Happy Thanksgiving, Kate! I hope you had a fantastic day despite the loss. Boy…it was bad.

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  5. Our Thanksgivings have gotten smaller over the years too. In fact, my husband and I are trying out just having Thanksgiving with the two of us this year. We don’t want to travel and didn’t feel like having a crowd over. We’ll see when it’s all over… will I be relieved that we made that choice, or sad that we weren’t spending it with others? Sometimes I think we are turning into hermits.

    Have a great Thanksgiving (which, with the time difference, you may now be in the middle of)! I love the stories about your mom!

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    • I love the side dishes that go with Thanksgiving and it’s work to make them all for just two of us. My brother isn’t really company. I have ‘downsized’ to plastic (but tasteful) placemats and paper napkins. Back in the day I used beautiful water glasses that had to be hand washed (what was I thinking) and other dishes that were more attractive than practical along with cloth tablecloths, napkins, etc. When we get to a point that my brother can’t make it, I’ll be ok with just the two of us. I like peace and quiet. My mother was a hoot!

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  6. Great memories and so universal, except the mom going to Hawaii part!

    My favorite cooking story was the year after my first wife and I separated. I decided to do a full Thanksgiving at my apartment, and the crowd of mutual friends (mostly divorced or otherwise unattached) became so big that I decided to invite my ex. She happily came and helped in my tiny kitchen, and we both agreed that I would attempt the gravy because it was something she simply never mastered. I actually had no idea what I was doing either, but as everyone arrived and drinks were served, I went into the kitchen to take out the bird and began transferring pan drippings into a pan. As I added flour it began to look pretty much like what your niece’s husband’s gravy looked like. Noticing me failing miserably my ex said in a loud voice, “you’re supposed roux the mixture.”

    I just stared back at her.

    “ROUX? I’m supposed to ROUX?!! You’re tossing French cooking terms at me after you already said you had no idea how to make gravy???!!!!”

    We had everyone laughing with our bickering. Luckily our former neighbor Shelley — herself only two years separated and divorced — came forward into the kitchen to save the day because she apparently could not only speak French, but just as important knew how to make gravy.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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  7. Happy Thanksgiving, Kate!

    I concur on the Mince Meat pie . . . my mom insisted on making one every year even though no one liked it. But she also made apple, pumpkin, and pecan pies, so no complaints.

    We’ll have a simple vegetarian Thanksgiving (all the fixins’ without the bird) . . . topped off with two kinds of PIE ~ apple crumb and pumpkin!

    Here’s to all the things we’re grateful for ~ food, fun, family, and friends!

    P.S. I just made the gravy . . . I hope I put in the right amount of flour.

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  8. Our family Christmases were much like your memories. We had some fun but children grow up, move on, and somehow the traditional values we treasured are sidelined for bigger and more elaborate things, and everything changes. The family is so widespread now, I wouldn’t know 95% of them if they knocked on my door.
    Happy Thanksgiving though to you and yours, may your memories always be sweet.

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    • My mother had a great time and some real “Tess” stories. One was that her plane was delayed at O’Hare but she didn’t think to call. I was frantic when she didn’t show up at the airport so I had her paged at O’Hare. She heard it but her friend convinced her that no one would page her so she didn’t answer it. I drove to the local airport to meet every plane that came in from O’Hare. Oh yes, she was with her lady friend. They bickered like an old married couple. Somehow one didn’t like the way the other put the luggage outside the door for pick-up and they got locked out when their room door closed behind them. They had their nightgowns on. And she wondered why I worried about her.

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  9. Happy Thanksgiving Kate and Dan! Your blog today has given me pause to think about so many past Thanksgivings. So glad my Dad took all the pictures he did. I have wonderful memories I can actually see! And, what is it about that Ocean Spray canned jellied cranberry sauce???? Yuck! Have a great holiday and do enjoy,

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