Childhood memories of Thanksgiving
|We always began the night before, chop, chop, slam, bang, chop, chop. Cornbread, bell peppers, onions, boiled eggs. In they went into the festive bowl that tomorrow would hold my father's World Famous Thanksgiving Dressing.
We always mixed the dressing with our hands, a time honored secret that had yet to escape till this moment, and we always licked our fingers.
My Daddy taught me everything I know about cooking and explained to me many times that dressing takes time to soak in all the seasonings. "It must sit overnight in the fridge and wait to be cooked at Aunt Tweet's House in the morning," he matter-of-factly explained.
Aunt Tweet was my dad's sister and her house was the only place to be for a holiday. Tweeter, as I call her, not only provided me with six diverse cousins, one to fit any particular mood, but she also baked and decorated cakes. Thanksgiving at Tweet's with homemade icing and my older cousins was, at least in my small world, a miraculously sweet family tradition.
Inside Thanksgiving came alive. "Who's winning?" Daddy would shout over blaring TV bowl games. Uncle Earl's face, which was always a little red, turned a shade redder and he shouted back, "You don't wanna know Bub." I had almost made it to the kitchen when, like clock work, a familiar voice shrilled, "Is that who I think it is?" Although masked by sounds of simmering pots, dinging timers and banging cabinet doors, there was no mistaking who was calling. "Well what's taking you so long to come give your grandmother a kiss?" My grandmother, "Mom" as I called her, because that's what my Daddy called her, was always on cue and, although I tried, I never made it from the screen door to the kitchen before she called after me.
After a few brief pinches and kisses I escaped to embark on Tweeter's kitchen. It was an uncharted land of holiday treats, cookies, cakes, and decorations. After sampling the homemade icing and picking out a special toy from her treasure chest of plastic cake decorating doo-dads, I was momentarily content. I spent the day bobbing from cousin to cousin, and pot to pot, asking questions and taking samples as I pleased until that anticipated instant when everything stopped and the announcement was made. "Time to eat!" yelled Tweet.
To me, this moment was magic. Wondering from end to end of the vast buffet, nose high to the table, I could see and smell all the glorious dishes. There they were, the proud golden turkey; the flaky, bubbling pies; the sloshy-red cranberry stuff; and at last, the festive bowl of Thanksgiving dressing, now all crispy on top, that Daddy and I made together the night before.
In one spectacular moment we all raced to fill our plates and pile into the living room. We sat wherever there was room, couch, coffee-table, floor, piano-bench. The important thing was that we were all together, balancing our dinner on our laps, celebrating how thankful we were to be a family. This was Thanksgiving and as occurs in most households on this glorious day, conversations were quickly replaced by mouthfuls of food, seconds were followed by thirds, stomachs eventually could hold no more, and finally the aroma of freshly brewed coffee warmed the air.
Coffee and dessert came along with the adult chit chat on how tasty this was and how tender that was. I was never bored to listen to those long, humming conversations and I always enjoyed finding a good lap to curl up in. As I lay cuddled there, feeling the soft stroke of a loved one's fingers through my hair, my eyes quietly blinked themselves to sleep, and I dreamed sweetly of the things which children dream, of a Thanksgiving day past and a Christmas morning yet to come.