A writer friend of mine suggested we share memories of Christmas but since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I’d like to share my Thanksgiving memories with you.
As a first-generation American-Italian, we celebrated Christmas and Easter like many other Italian families. But for Thanksgiving, the day was strictly an American holiday.
We had the usual gigantic tom turkey, candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, rolls, stuffing, and the dreaded jellied cranberry sauce which I couldn’t stand. (I now make it from scratch with real cranberries and love it.)
My Italian grandma usually cooked the other holidays but Thanksgiving was my mom’s baby, although I think my grandmother may have made the pies because she was an expert pie maker. And, my mom did everything else. So it worked.
Mom made the stuffing the day before. Her special recipe that took a lot of time and effort. We all loved that stuffing. And because we only got it once a year, the years she made it a different way got mixed reviews even some thumbs down.
She would get up extra early and prepare the bird stuffing both cavities (frowned upon today). Back then, we didn’t know any better. Or maybe it was because the turkey was in the oven in the morning and cooked all afternoon. I don’t know but the aroma of that cooking turkey filled every room in the house.
While the potatoes were cooking, my mom would pull out her best china. The Franciscan Apple pattern. I think she has every piece ever made. Some fifteen years ago, I found her the matching tablecloth and napkins which was a pleasant addition to the festive table. My mother put her candlesticks out with lovely white candles and a nice centerpiece.
When I was a kid, there were seven of us: my mom, dad, dad’s parents, my brother, me and my grandmother’s brother-in-law who sometimes stole the show. We sat for hours and ate course after course. My mom decked out that dining room which had been a bedroom and then a family room and finally she got what she’d always wanted. A dining room with a breakfront. The room was gorgeous.
I spent most of the morning watching the parade on television back when there was a parade on every channel and we only had three of them. After dinner, we’d play cards.
Later on, after my grandparents passed and my brother and I married and had children, we were ten people. The enchanting table and good food remained the same but Dad added shrimp cocktail, cheese and crackers for appetizers. The table increased to ten people.
Now that my mother was older she needed more help so watching our children watched those parades while the girls helped mom.
After dinner, we spent hours as a family playing board games. We had so much fun during those years. Everyone participated, and no one had phones in their hands (no cell phones) and no computers back then either. The kids, all in junior high or high school didn’t even ask to watch television or a movie. It was family time. we all enjoyed one another’s presence.
One particular memory is one that stands out and I’m not sure if it was on Thanksgiving or Christmas because we played the board games on both holidays. But it was when our kids were older. They may have been in high school.
The game we were playing was a charade type game where you picked a card and acted it out (can’t remember the name of it…if anyone knows, be sure to comment).
It was my dad’s turn. At this point, he was probably in his sixties. He read the card and collapsed off his chair. Well, you can imagine the chaos in that room when he fell and seemed to be unconscious. The kids screamed, “Grandpa, are you ok?” He opened one eye and said, “I’m playing the game!” Stunned, someone picked up his card. After he popped up off the floor, he told us his card said “drop dead” so he did. We all laughed, shook our heads, and told him to never to scare us that again.
Despite that crazy memory, I’m grateful for all those tremendous Thanksgiving dinners filled with laughter, great food, and wonderful conversations. The memories are bittersweet. Mom turned 90 this year and no longer cooks nor does she want to leave her home to celebrate holidays. Dad passed and our children’s families live far enough away that celebrating Thanksgiving isn’t as easy as it once was. But, we will always have our memories and we are blessed to have had them. I am grateful and will always cherish them.