Thanksgiving has always meant family. When I was young, the traditional feast was prepared by my mother. She roasted turkey large enough for seven and any relatives who might be joining us.
We children helped by stuffing celery stalks with cream cheese and cutting radishes as fancy as we could. Olives and pickles in fancy dishes helped create a colorful table. We set out the best dishes. These were the carnival glass type in an iridescent orange collected from dish night at the movies. We also made decorations to enhance the festivity.
Mom made lots of stuffing, baked a huge hubbard squash, prepared turnips, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and a large pan of gravy. Cranberry sauce was a colorful addition. The pies were traditionally apple, squash, and mince.
During WWII, my mother was working at the Springfield Armory and the usual holiday was suspended as everyone working at the war effort reported for duty. That year, my grandmother found a goose for our dinner rather than the usual turkey which was scarce. That also was the year my three younger sisters were assigned the task of bringing extra plates from our house. They pretended they were high stepping, “Oer the white and wintry snow”, as they were going to Gramma’s house about a half mile away. In silly fits of laughter, they dropped the plates, breaking a few and running home to get replacements.
Over the years, the venue changed often, but never without family and friends in attendance. In 1954, two days before my wedding, my mother opted for a restaurant holiday dinner. We dined family style at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. The downside was, no leftovers for turkey sandwiches, or pie for breakfast the next day.
As our family increased, we enjoyed the holiday with the Grandparents, or invited them to our home. If no one was eating with us, our children always felt we should go out and find someone who was alone. Hard to do at the last minute. When the group was large, the card table was pressed into service and that was the children’s table. Often there was a high chair pulled up to be included, and the bench from the picnic table was set in place for extra seating. My children also helped by doing the tradition of celery, radish and table setting.
One year when there was a gas shortage, a neighbor suctioned gas from his pick-up to help us drive to our designation.
Our custom was to bring a pie or something to share when invited. The year of a blizzard on the big day, kept many at home who would be sharing at another house. Luckily, we were hosting that year and had a complete dinner ready except for dessert. My mother, who was living next door, was to be picked up with her pies and joining my sister Mary’s family. We had a complete dinner where Mary had only a turkey dinner, and Betty’s family dined on hot dogs and lots of pie. Everyone stayed in their own place and my mother was escorted to our house with the pies. Great memories.
Another year, my sister Mary extended an invitation to a crowd at her home. She set up card tables like a restaurant. That time we had fourteen different types of pie to select from.
Our biggest adventure was when twenty of us gathered at Cape Cod to share our meal in a summer school building. Due to miscommunication, the gas, electricity and heat were not turned on as agreed. Not to be deterred, we cooked the meal at another available home where there was electricity, but no water. We lugged gallon jugs of water from a local gas station. When dinner was ready, we toted it all to the original destination. We set the table complete with green plastic dinnerware, lit candles for ambiance, and wore our warm coats and jackets when we sat to eat. We shared lots of laughs, when a threat of a whipped cream duel made the meal even more memorable. We all trekked outside to eat our pie as it was slightly warmer than indoors.
One year, we rented a local club where we cooked dinner. Others joined us and we shared the traditional dishes of others and lots of different pies. We had games for the young ones to meet new cousins from out of town.
As our children left home for marriage, were away at school, were scheduled to work that day, or had invitations to other places, we were stunned to find that the two of us would be alone for the holiday. When friends learned of this, we were asked to join them; otherwise, I’m sure we would have found a restaurant where other folks would be around.
Nowadays, our daughter Mary Jane and her husband Michael host the annual Thanksgiving feast at their home. They usually seat at least a dozen or more for the happiest of family gatherings. Their children now do the celery, radish and table setting.
We are thankful for all our blessings of family, friends and country.