My childhood’s home I see again,
And sadden with the view;
And still, as memory crowds my brain,
There’s pleasure in it, too.
(by Abraham Lincoln in 1846 when he was 37)
IN RECENT YEARS, MEMORIES OF PAST THANKSGIVINGS come to visit at Thanksgiving time, like welcome spirits, filling the house with smells, sights, sounds and stories of long ago times with family and friends around the family dining table. – When family gathers now, we share the old stories, visit familiar traditions and renew family bonds once again.
THE THANKSGIVING TABLE
MOM IN HER APRON at 6:00am –
she and turkey greet the sunrise;
women in the house don aprons after breakfast
taking directions to prepare the feast.
Young daughters and granddaughters set the table,
check the centerpiece,light the candles,
and sometimes stir a mysterious mixture –
then run off to play with siblings and cousins.
DAD CARVES THE SUCCULENT TURKEY in the kitchen,
separating meat slices – white to dark –
arranging artfully on the turkey platter.
Mom says carving the turkey is a man’s job –
and he performs the ritual with pleasure
as head of our family.
OUR THANKSGIVING table covered end to end
with food, family and friends;
Dad at the window end of the table
by the turkey proudly starring in our feast;
Mom at the other end, near the kitchen
to fetch a forgotten spoon.
THE SAME THANKSGIVING MEAL re-appears,
no trendy new dishes here to explain;
dishes of food artfully displayed
on the white tablecloth with the best Haviland
china, silver, crystal and cloth napkins.
A bowl of flowers and lighted candles
centers with food nestled around the table:
fresh green beans, mashed potatoes served in Mom’s
mixer bowl, dressing smelling of sage, corn,
a full gravy boat with tender pieces of turkey swimming,
sinfully rich sweet potatoes with the
heavenly aroma of brown sugar, butter and pralines,
cranberry sauce in the familiar glass bowl,
salads, hot rolls wrapped in a cotton bun warmer
decorated on the edges with Mom’s white crocheted lace,
and a pitcher of ice cold ice tea (sweetened of course).
WE HEAR COFFEE PERKING on the buffet beside the desserts:
cookies for the children and pumpkin and pecan pies –
butter pecan ice cream added later.
With bowed heads and hands clasped around
the table, each of us speaks of the year’s
greatest blessing – opening hearts of gratitude –
while family bonds tighten. Dad says grace and
finishes with a toast for health in the coming year.
WOMEN adjourn to the family room
for coffee and talk – while men tackle dishes
and clean-up in kitchen and dining room –
in gratitude for their traditions and sated stomachs.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
IN MY HOME, I have continued familiar traditions, and serve many foods shared over the years at the Thanksgiving tables in my parents home. I use Mom’s green bean recipe for perfect green beans, and serve turkey, mashed potatoes, lots of cranberry sauce, hot rolls, dressing and iced tea, pumpkin and pecan pies and cookies and ice cream.
I HAVE MADE A FEW CHANGES and additions over the years: reduced the calories in the sweet potato recipe, and served additional lower calorie dishes as options, for example, wild rice with cranberries; field greens salad with raspberries and toasted walnuts and goat cheese; sliced cucumbers with onions and tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, basalmic vinegar and oregano. I also serve ham for some family members who prefer it to turkey and a wine option with the iced tea. The past 20 years, I have served my mother-in-law’s holiday pineapple salad (loved by my family) and occasionally make her delicious squash casserole dish – thus incorporating traditions and memories from my husband’s family.
THIS THANKSGIVING, we will once again gather together at the holiday table. I am thankful for traditions past – and blessed to be engaged in passing them on.
Sue Marquis Bishop 2013