Thanksgiving is fast approaching. It’s one of those holidays that some people feel gets overlooked, with many jumping straight from Halloween to Christmas. It is true in certain respects; as soon as the Halloween candy on the store shelves has been marked down to move the merchandise on Nov. 1, the candy canes and stocking stuffers take its place.
But the fourth Thursday in November is sandwiched between Oct. 31 and Dec. 25 and should, in my opinion, never be overlooked.
Growing up, we seemed to host the big Thanksgiving gathering more often than not. I remember my mom having the turkey in the oven very early in the morning, before the relatives from various other locations started to arrive around midafternoon. Weather was always a consideration, too, as to how many people would attend. Sometimes an early winter storm would prevent long distance travel, other years a late fall heat wave would mean a crisp fall day perfect for tossing the football up on the side hill before dinner.
My mom’s sister and her family would sometimes come from Massachusetts, other years it was an assortment of aunts, uncles and cousins, family friends … there was always room at the table.
The best Thanksgivings were when we could build a little fire in the fireplace that was the focal point of the dining room; the warmth of the fire and the crackling, snapping and popping of the wood as it burned provided the perfect backdrop for the dinner table conversation.
It also seemed that my mom was very much in control in the kitchen; from getting that turkey stuffed, basted and in to the oven before the rest of the house was even out of bed, to having all the side dishes planned and making sure there was a dessert to please everyone, whether that was the traditional pumpkin pie or some of her famous oatmeal cookies.
Studies over the years have pointed to family time spent around the dinner table as important and when I look back on memorable times, I have to admit that many of them were spent around there. It was important that we all sat down together for supper – upstate New York’s preferred word for dinner – and talk about the day, school, extracurricular activities or just life in general. Sometimes, when my dad had to work late to finish a job, it would be my mom, my sister, brother and I. My mom would make sure my dad’s supper stayed warm in the oven until he arrived home. My sister and I typically had the job of doing the dishes afterward; my sister usually washed, I dried and put away, and we kept the dinnertime conversation going as we worked. Holidays, like Thanksgiving, were a special occasion and it was nice on those days to just have to help load the dishwasher. It didn’t get used every night, just on those special occasions.
Lots of Thanksgiving meals also featured homegrown vegetables – corn, peas and green beans, mainly – that had been picked from the garden in July and August and then either frozen or canned.
My brother and I would usually watch a little football on TV that day but we preferred to go out and toss the ball around ourselves or get a pick-up touch football game going with the visiting cousins. One Thanksgiving, though, we awoke to a couple of feet of snow on the ground; not totally unheard of in our area, about 45 miles west of Albany, the state capital.
My brother tried to get on his bicycle that was still in the front yard and ended up losing his balance and disappearing into a snowdrift. I was able to dig out the football but there was no tossing it around that day. I suspect that year it was also a family-only Thanksgiving since there probably wasn’t much movement on the roads. But it was a memorable holiday; and I hope yours will be this year as well, wherever it takes you.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Oakdale Leader, The Escalon Times and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 209-847-3021.