Column, Looking Back

Looking Back: Remembering past Thanksgivings

Well, it’s almost here…Thanksgiving time! For most of us it’s all about the food. Family recipes are used to prepare many of the dishes that will be served. In some cases these recipes are on index cards and are handwritten. Some cards have a line with the words: “From the kitchen of…” I particularly love seeing those cards when the word “Mom” is on that line. My mother is no longer living, which makes those recipe cards even more special.

When I was a child back in the ’50s, my mother would give me the “job” of making place cards for the dinner table. There were only around 10 people and it didn’t really matter where anyone sat but she liked the formality of that special occasion. Besides it gave me something to do ,which meant that she could accomplish something!

Thanksgiving also meant getting out dishes that I only saw for special occasions. Silverware came out of the box it was kept in and the polishing began. My mother loved to crochet and she made a tablecloth that fit a full size rectangular table. That only came out of storage when the dishes and silverware did. Not everyone managed to keep the tablecloth clean but my mother got out all the stains and by the next day it was back in storage for the following Thanksgiving.

As we were preparing for the big day back in yesteryear, the doorbell always rang on the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving. Standing on the other side was a florist delivery person who handed my mother a beautiful table centerpiece. One of our dinner guests made sure that our table was graced with autumn color flowers interspersed with small stalks of wheat for texture.

I have seen ads recently referring to the day as “Friendsgiving” and that term coupled with the common meaning of “Thanksgiving” describes well what I remember about that day it in our house.

As I look back I realize that we actually had an odd assortment of people at our table over the years. Since I am an only child and relatives are sparse on both sides I spent the day with adults. There were two female cousins of my mother’s who were  what we called“old maids.” One had been engaged but her boyfriend had been killed in WWII back in the ‘40s. The other sister also had a boyfriend but didn’t want to get married. So her “boyfriend” had that status throughout his life. The two sisters lived in the family home and the boyfriend remained a boarder in another home. The three of them always came together.

Cousins from my father’s side of the family were also at our table along with some friends of my parents.

The friends at our table changed as the generations changed. When I was a child in the ’50s the friends were from my parents’ generation. One was a widow and the other two were both in the “old maid” category. The women always brought something to serve at dinner. The “boyfriend” of our cousin brought a bottle of rye. Everyone liked rye and ginger so that bottle was usually empty by the time dinner was served! My mother was so busy in the kitchen that she was probably lucky if she got a sip of hers!

The only time I remember my parents expressing displeasure about their dinner guests was when the husband of a cousin began to clear the plates off the table while people were still visiting and were not ready to move on to dessert. The husband wanted to get into “the club.” I don’t think they were on the guest list the following year!

There was always one “rooster” in the hen house. When the cousin’s “boyfriend” had passed on my husband entered the picture and took over that role. Both seemed quite content in the hen house!

Time has moved forward and traditions have changed. Many of the people mentioned above are no longer with us but the memories of a full table with an assortment of people remain.

It’s time to be thankful for the good times we have had and to look forward to those yet to come. And let’s not forget about the football games later in the day. My husband will be thankful for those!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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