Thanksgiving Memories

“I can’t tell you how much I used to dread Thanksgiving,” my mother said yesterday as we headed out to the grocery store to do our shopping for the big dinner.  “My mother used to invite everybody over and then bitch about it for days.  She made life miserable for me and Dad for weeks. ”

I looked at her aghast.  My childhood memories of Thanksgiving were pure happiness.  I never sensed any tension or angst…all I recall were the wonderful aromas and tastes of my southern grandmother’s cuisine.  The huge turkey, slowly roasting all day long in the oven (“Oh yes,” said my mother, “she woke us all up at the crack of dawn to get that turkey in the oven by 7:00 so it could cook all day long”), stuffed with the moist, savory dressing (“I had to search all over town for fresh sage to put in that stuffing”), and smothered in rich, brown gravy (“She wouldn’t let anybody else stir that gravy for fear it would be lumpy!”)

Well.  Who knew?  I was so tickled at the prospect of a house full of people, all my my favorite aunts and uncles with their interesting conversations, laughing and telling stories about family members I’d never seen.   And all the while the day had been filled with aggravation for my mother.

Of course, 40 years later, I’m no stranger to the memory of aggravating holidays.  When Jim and I married, it somehow evolved in our little family that his mother would prepare the Thanksgiving day dinner at our house.  (The one they so graciously sold to us when we got married while they moved into a tiny apartment which was of course far too small to serve Thanksgiving dinner.)  So every year she’d appear (at the crack of dawn so she could get the turkey in the oven) and then be puttering around in my kitchen all day, muttering about the way I arranged things or cleaned things or didn’t have the right kind of things.

However, if you were to ask my son, he might recall the times  he stood on a tiny step-stool and helped Grandma prepare the turkey, watching intently as she cleaned out the cavity and tied the drumsticks together with twine.  Or he might remember running into the kitchen each time the oven door opened, so he could hold the baster and squeeze  hot pan drippings over the bird’s golden breast.  He might not have had any inkling that his mother was in her bedroom, silently screaming.

All that’s left of those holidays are memories -for my son, who lives far away and is never home on Thanksgiving; for me, who has dinner with an ever diminishing number of people; and for my mother, who prepares the meal for the three of us in her own kitchen and in her own expert and individual way.

Thanksgiving is becoming more and more the forgotten holiday, crammed in between Halloween and Christmas which garner a lot more attention in this consumer driven society of ours.  We’re even having our regular trash pickup on Thursday – as long as I’ve lived here, pickup was postponed until Friday on Thanksgiving week.  I’m not sure I approve of that.  I think the sanitation workers should have Thursday so they could enjoy dinner with their families and friends same as nearly everyone else.

Thanksgiving is a holiday built around emotions – of being grateful for family and friends, for health and happiness, and food on the table.   It’s not about buying presents, or wearing costumes, or elaborate fireworks displays.  It’s not even about concerts of beautiful music, or rooms of gorgeous decorations.

It’s simply about making memories, good or bad.

I hope you make some lovely ones this year.


25 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Memories

  1. Yes, we will have a small Thanksgiving this year, and yes my mother will be doing all the cooking, baking, basting and stuffing. I might be allowed to stir once in a while 😉 but it is her kitchen, after all.
    Happy memories and happy Thanksgiving to you, Becca; you have described the day and its importance perfectly.

    • Your mom sounds a lot like mine. At 83, she’s really happy to be in charge of her own kitchen! And we’re not complaining, either 🙂 The results are always wonderful.

      Have a lovely day!

  2. Yes.. I’ve been cooking Thanksgiving dinner since moving into my house ~and I love it~!!
    My daughter recently claimed it to be her most favorite holiday.
    Wishing you and yours a happy one!

  3. And one of the things I am Thankful for is YOU and your wordcrafting that always stirs an emotion or two within me. I am honored to call you FRIEND! Happy Thanksgiving, Becca and Jim!

  4. Becca,
    I’m definitely grateful that I found your blog several years ago, and that I can hop on over here, and get your perspective on life anytime I wish. Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your mother’s cooking. Eat hearty and exercise Friday. That’s what I plan to do.

    • Bella, I’m thankful we’ve found each other…your voice out there in the blogsphere makes me smile, think, sometimes cry, but always feel as if there’s someone else that gets what Life in General is all about!

      Have a wonderful day, and wishing you and your family good health and happiness during the holidays!

  5. Happy Thanksgiving, Becca. I really appreciated the honesty in this post. Getting together with family always brings about a “buffet” of emotions, but I remind myself that just as my childhood has faded into a memory, so will these days. Tonight, I’m making my great-grandmother’s chocolate pie. I had to throw out the first batch, but now it’s all good. As I was stirring the pot, I had all these memories of days gone by. Bittersweet, indeed.

    • Food and memories are inexorably connected. There are things I eat that remind me so much of my grandmother (in a good way), and it makes me sad because there are things I know will never taste the way she used to make them.

      I hope you have a wonderful day, and make some very happy memories for yourself and your boys 🙂

  6. Thanksgiving is on life-support over here, but it’s still Thanksgiving – much changed from years when an entire family gathered around the table, and a little more poignant than I like, but on we go.

    Now I cook for my mother rather than with my mother, but the recipes are her’s, and she’s still able to enjoy them. That’s worth a whole world of thanks.

  7. We spend the day with my sister-in-law and her family. It’s a welcoming, happy day and I’m so grateful for that.

    Like Bella, I’m thankful to have found you too. Have a great Thanksgiving Day.

  8. garbage pick-up on such a beautiful holiday? yes that’s a sad evolution

    I have similar memories over Christmas which I love but I’m sure my mom has been stressing over the Christmas dinner all her life

  9. Becca,
    What a beautiful story. Maybe that’s why we need that ‘skipped’ generational perspective. It’s so wonderful to think of your childhood story or your son’s, as filled with memories of what it was really all about…being loved and taking time to share food around a communal table.
    I love the details you weave into these pieces. Thanks for putting things in perspective. It’s funny, we all long for order and our fondest memories are often about the chaos of all those relatives.
    We’ve already had our Canadian thanksgiving. Ours was pretty low-key as well. I love that it is still the only holiday that has no commercial cards and gifts and all that consumer stuff that everything else is encumbered with.
    Warmest wishes for a great Thanksgiving weekend
    PS Glad the garbage collectors get the day off after all…

    • It’s good to have those happy, “clueless” childhood memories to remind us what the holidays should do for us! We do lose perspective sometimes when we’re adults 🙂

  10. Thank goodness for childhood memories! I hadn’t thought about it before. I assumed everything was “tra la la” on our thanksgivings, growing up, where 14 of us, aunts, uncles, grands and kids, gathered to celebrate at our grandparents home. Other than my uncle Paul robbing the crudite platter long before it was set “out” on the table and other than some mild discussion on which LP to play on my grandfather’s stereo system, it was all peaches and cream as far as I knew.
    And now it has a new or renewed meaning as I take the helm in the kitchen with daughter helping. When they were young, and we were in Florida, there was plnety of family and friends around; we have evolved and though it’s different, it’s fun….and funny.
    It’s amazing the things we don’t know about what others are thinking…sometimes, it gives us a safe place and leaves our own memory/perceptions intact!
    I hope your T Day was lovely and a special kickoff in its way to the ensuing holidays (though they’re not related of course.)
    Happy Holidays!

  11. I found you from Dona Nobis Pacem. I love your site. I’m going to poke around a little bit, but don’t worry I’ll put everything back where I found it!!

  12. A wonderful post — and oh, the perspective to look back at it and recognize both your own joy at gathering for the holiday and see the angst of the moms. I love Thanksgiving — no presents, just family, food, talking. There are no obligations — or so it seems! But I suppose for the hosts (and yes, I’ve had my share of going wonko on the holidays!) it can be pretty intense. Last year I gave up control — the rest of our lives were so out of control, I just couldn’t handle Thanksgiving. Yet I welcomed friends with no expectations and it was wonderful. This year, I was just a guest — and I loved that, too. I suspect one time in the future — probably more than one — I’ll host again. And I’ll welcome that, but perhaps be wiser than I once was!

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