"You can't force yourself to overlook something that goes against your principles, and you can't change your experiences to fit someone else's life." -- Stephen Mack Jones, "Lives Laid Away"

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Ghosts of Thanksgiving Past

      After Thanksgiving dinner was safely tucked under our belts -- standard fare of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, peas, cranberry sauce -- we joined our family on Zoom and started reminiscing about Thanksgivings past. Most of the memories were fond ones -- of mini-vacations, family get-togethers, convivial dinners and good food. 

     I recalled one Thanksgiving, back in the 1970s, when my wife and I were vacationing with a few friends. Nobody wanted to cook, but being in our 20s we didn't plan ahead, so we couldn't get a table at a restaurant . . . that is, until we found a Chinese place tucked into the back of a mini-mall. We walked into an empty room, with 20 or so empty tables, and proceeded to enjoy a great meal with great service. The cuisine seemed a little out-of-place for the occasion -- I had the pu pu platter -- but we all had a wonderful time laughing and joking about our sudden and unexpected cultural adventure.

     My sister remembered with a laugh the frozen string beans our mother used to overcook. I recalled the cranberry sauce plopped straight out of the can -- and the sweet potato casserole drenched in sauce and decorated with little marshmallows.

     "Speaking of marshmallows," my wife said, "did you guys ever have Jello with fruit in it? We used Mandarin oranges. with marshmallows and sometimes sour cream on top."

     "Oh, we had that stuff," said my daughter. "It was terrible. I also remember the turnips and mashed potatoes." She wrinkled her nose. "Mom used to mix the turnips in with the mashed potatoes -- thus completely ruining the mashed potatoes!"

     But then my son recalled how he loved to sit around in his pajamas on Thanksgiving day, watching the Macy's parade and helping his mom tear apart the bread and prepare the stuffing -- and how great it tasted after it came out of the turkey.

     "Yeah," my daughter added. "And I loved drowning everything in gravy. Mom made really good gravy."

     Then my other sister recalled, "Well, our mother wasn't much of a cook. But in her defense, she made a great leg of lamb -- not for Thanksgiving, but usually for Christmas."

     I remembered the leg of lamb. I don't even like lamb anymore, but I did back in those days. I liked the lamb and the roasted potatoes and all the other trimmings -- and just the fun and the warm feelings you get sitting around the table with eight or ten or twelve family members.

     "And remember Mom's hard sauce?" my sister added. "How did she make that? I think it was basically butter and sugar. It might've had a taste of vanilla and maybe some nutmeg."

     "And a drop of rum," I added. "Don't forget the rum! But . . . what did we put it on?"

     "Pecan pie," she said.

     "No, pumpkin pie," I corrected. 

     "Maybe fruitcake," added my other sister.

     "Oh, God, not fruitcake . . . spare me the fruitcake . . . "

     And thus it went. Another Thanksgiving full of family fun and fond memories. And now it's on to Christmas . . . 

19 comments:

ApacheDug said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ApacheDug said...

Those are some nice Holiday memories Tom, I used to enjoy reminiscing about earlier celebrations with my own family but no one seems to want to do that anymore. As for all that food talk, it's interesting how so many of us ate and liked & disliked the exact same things!

Kay said...

I loved reading about your Thanksgiving memories. I don't have any with my parents because we didn't really celebrate it when we were growing up, BUT I wonder what my kids remember. I know my daughter will mention broccoli casserole which is the only thing she would eat because she didn't care for turkey. My son ate everything.

Kay said...

Turnips in mashed potatoes? Hmmmm....

Tabor said...

This does bring back the memories. I loved it all as a child, because food was somewhat sparse in those days and TG was the one day we ate and ate.

DJan said...

It sure was nice this year to have a catered (well, sort of) dinner of turkey and all the trimmings made by our local food co-op. Everything was simply delicious and we just finished the leftovers tonight. Yum!

Arkansas Patti said...

It is fun to get family together to rehash a special day. Always interesting what things seemed most important to each. They usually were all different.

gigi-hawaii said...

Glad you had a great Thanksgiving, both past and present.

Rian said...

Tom, those old past memories of family get-togethers at Thanksgiving are great. We had them growing up... with all our aunts, uncles, and cousins. But as some of us married and moved away, those became a thing of the past. They still go on at home and we still do (or did before the pandemic) do our own get togethers with our own families - but the kids miss all the stories from the older folks and funny memories that were brought up around the table. But... we did Facetime with our cousins in New Orleans this year! That was fun... great seeing them after all this time. They asked when we were planning to visit and all I could say was we'd love to... but not comfortable about traveling yet.

Tom said...

Zoom and Facetime have certainly helped us stay in touch with friends and family over the past months (years?), but there's no substitute for live in-person. We have to make the effort to keep those relationships, those connections, those stories alive and present in the minds of our kids and grandkids.

Linda Myers said...

Your family's meal and conversation sounds a lot like my own memories!

My sister called me on Thanksgiving and said, "I miss Aunt Elinor (a close family friend) when she made her coleslaw by squeezing the cabbage through a cheescloth strainer." I can still her out there in the kitchen wearing her apron and a big, loving smile.

Rebecca Olkowski said...

Funny about the Chinese restaurant as they are the favorite place to go during Christmas and Easter if you are Jewish. There was some weird food (Jello) for the holidays when we were growing up. My mom made Ambrosia with fruit and marshmallows. I loved it but haven't made it myself.

Meryl Baer said...

My Mom made turnips and nobody ate them. I remember as kids my sister and I would make a centerpiece for the table and place cards for everyone. I guess it kept us busy so Mom could cook!

Tom said...

Ambrosia! That's the name I was looking for. Gad, I hate that stuff! As for turnips, I think the idea of mixing them into the mashed potatoes was to get people to eat them. But as my daughter said, the real result was that the turnips ruined the mashed potatoes. But as we say, if you'll pardon my French, a chacun son gout.

Barbara said...

Wow. That sounds like a really fun Zoom visit. So many new things, like Zoom, will be part of our lives now and really, it is a great way to be with friends and family who are not near.

Carol Cassara said...

Reading this it occurs to me that life is made up of these fun and funny memories. It's the brocade of our experience here.

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Wisewebwoman said...

i love those memories Tom, reminds me of our family Zoom get togethers every Sunday afternoons where we pool the memories and see what comes up. This week it was an in depth discussion on plum puddings. Brandy butter balls, fighting over the turkey wishbone, bobbing for apples on Halloween before it got all commercialized. etc.

it's so good to relive those experiences.

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