This is the month of Thanksgiving. A time of reflection. A month for memories of family come together for the celebration of life and its abundance.
I was a fortunate child who grew up surrounded by relatives young and old. I grew up with an abundance of cousins, aunts and uncles within in a 10 mile radius. For us Thanksgiving was not an ordeal it was a celebration. Our close proximity made it easy to gather under a single roof year after year to eat and drink and talk as if we had not seen one another for a decade or more.
The third Thursday of November was a holiday of warmth and closeness like no other. We may have seen each other just yesterday and yet this day was a sacred ritual embraced by all with smiles and greetings of cheer.
Starting around 11 AM the front door would open and in would come children bounding over the threshold followed by the smiles and cheerful hellos of the parents who carried their offering for the mile long table in the back room. The aroma of some warm and mouthwatering delicacy from the oven would waft over me as they passed by. We kids would be running, hootin' and hollerin' to beat the band until shushed by the grownups as they began to remove coats and hats. And then when the dust had settled the front door would open and another flock of kids would race over the threshold followed by parents and new fragrance being emitted through covered dishes.
Between one and two the house would be crowded with children overcoming the excitement of sharing stories of youthful enthusiasm amidst the drone of grownups conversing. When it was decided the last person in the family gathering had arrived and the plates and dishes were set along the extended table the time had come for everyone to quiet down as the blessing was said. My granddad as head of the extended family would stand framed in the doorway to the kitchen. He'd look out over the sea of family until quiet descended upon us and bow his head. He would speak to God as if He were before him thanking Him for the abundance He had provided this day, the family He had brought together under this roof with the chance to gather in His presence to share this meal. And with these words he would almost say Amen but hesitate just a second to add, "And bless the little cook." His blessing was the opening for all to gather around the table and spoon up from each dish a portion of the meats, vegetables, potatoes, sweet potatoes and breads lined up on table. Piling a plate, chatting all the while, took a bit of time picking and choosing until it was realized seconds and thirds trip to choose were always possible.
We'd find a place to sit, usually in front of the TV to catch up on one of the bowl games while stuffing turkey and dressing into our mouths. A cleaned plate pulled us into the line once again forming at the table. Another trip around choosing from the bounty. Another search for a seat to continue with the game and smacking our lips over the newly piled plate.
Then came the best part of the meal. Dessert. Not just one but what seemed to be hundreds. The center of the table was adorned with the Wonder of the tall whipped cream cake from the Meeting Street Piggly Wiggly. It was the Primo dessert offering that everyone sliced into. then the pies of pecan, pumpkin and shoofly variety sat awaiting knives. Beside them were the cakes which included fruitcake--the homemade variety that we would eat--along with pudding and ice cream churned that morning.
The day would be taken up with talking, eating, drinking and napping. The evening would see us all taking newly piled plates covered in tin foil to be carried home to eat as if any of us needed too.
It was a bountiful family tradition I miss since my grandparents passed away and we children grew up to live in far away places. In my memory they live on.