This is probably my favorite holiday because I think we should be thankful for all our blessings and I’m glad a day is set aside to remind people to be thankful, if they need reminding. I really get upset today when I see all the Christmas decorations out way before Thanksgiving has arrived. Every year this gets earlier, and has almost squeezed Thanksgiving out of the mix altogether.
When we were growing up, Thanksgiving was the only holiday that we all got together to eat and make merry. By all, I mean our first cousins, aunt, and uncle who lived on the same farm with my daddy’s parents and us. It was a day we could put all of our feuding with each other on the back burner and just enjoy all that life had to offer. This great feast always happened at Mamaw’s house every year, but of course, this all changed once we started growing up, moving away to lead our separate lives, and our grandparents passed away.
Rosenberg Mamaw (daddy’s mother) would always cook the turkey and dressing every year. We were all too young then and not allowed in the kitchen, so I’m not sure if all the adults would contribute to this dinner other than taking part in all of the cooking that went on and there was lots of that.
Mamaw was a terrific cook and was always baking something. She would start out a couple days ahead making the pies and cakes, cookies and kolaches. I remember very well going into her big dining room and there on the buffet against one wall would be all the desserts lined up for Thanksgiving.
My aunt and mama would be in the small kitchen with Mamaw most of the morning getting all the food prepared. Of course, once we got over there, the house smelled like turkey and made all of our mouths water. Mamaw had gotten up around 5 am to get that big bird in the oven. With that 24-pound turkey almost done, they would start preparing all the other side dishes. Every time we kids would go in the kitchen, they would chase us out in the yard to play until it was ready.
Growing up in southern Texas, the weather is still very nice at Thanksgiving, sunny with leaves still on the trees, maybe just starting to turn color in places. It was definitely warm enough to play outside without wearing coats. As kids, we took full advantage of this.
Mamaw’s yard was huge and we would get into playing all kinds of games: tag, hide-and-seek, red rover-red rover, Simon says, jump rope and many other things. We could spend hours out there. Most of the yard was green lawn with a narrow cement sidewalk splitting it in two. The garden sat in an area off to the left of the house. The rest of the yard surrounded by trees growing next to the fence, large sprawling paper shell pecans, crepe myrtle, mulberry, with fig trees across the back of the house that faced the main highway into town. A large peach tree grew by the sidewalk about midway between the house and gate that led out to the chicken coop, the barns, and “jelly man hill” by the pump house.
The milk house was also out there across the road, a place where we’d like to go in the hot summers because it was very cool in there, once used for processing milk, as my grandparents used to run a dairy before we were born. When we were growing up the diary had long gone, except for milk used by the family, which Mamaw cooked on the stove and bottled, the cream skimmed off to make homemade butter, which each of us got to experience as part of growing up in the country. Mamaw now used this small block building for a washhouse and usually kept it locked to keep us out of there.
The fenced off cow pastures lie beyond that with farmland off to the other side. We made use of most of these places to play our games, but on Thanksgiving generally sticking close to the yard. We wanted to hear that call to dinner, which was usually around 2 pm. We had all worked up quite an appetite by then.
Mamaw had a large dining table, but not big enough to seat 6 adults and 13 kids, so she sat up card tables that stretched from the dining room into the living room. This is where most of the kids had to sit, the privilege of sitting at the grown up table left to the oldest kids. After fixing plates for all the younger kids, we could sit down and serve our own.
Her dark brown table, always dusted to a high shine, was barely visible under all the plates, platters, and bowls of food. Everything smelled terrific and we dug into out turkey and dressing with gusto. There would be several vegetables and of course, the usual green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, cranberries, home baked rolls with homemade butter, and plenty of iced tea in mason jars.
With a sufficient amount of turkey and all the trimmings consumed, it was time to cut into the delicious baked goods. It was really hard to make up your mind on this, being pretty stuffed already, but I usually always had to have a piece of homemade apple pie and of course at least one homemade kolache. The chocolate cake was hard to turn down as well, so we usually ended up so stuffed it was a wonder we could go back out in the yard and play, but we did.
The ladies would chase us kids out of the house and the men would sit on the porch “chewing the fat” and watching us, or lie down for a nap. We always seemed to have boundless energy and Thanksgiving was one day when we all got along.
It was wonderful to be out there playing and not having to face that enormous cleanup that we helped with, as we got older. As I reflect back on my childhood, it really didn’t seem fair at all to make the women do all the work while the men sat around. I guess that’s the way it was in those days, what a man expected out of a farm wife. Not only did they do all the cooking and cleaning, they did many chores and worked the fields along with the men. Farm women had long days and never stopped until long after the men folk were able to relax. I made up my mind back then that I didn’t want that kind of life for me. I would have made a terrible pioneer woman and I’m glad I didn’t grow up in those times, which were rougher than our farm life.
Today, all of us do our own thing for Thanksgiving. All of the family doesn’t get together anymore, but some of us live in different states now. The married ones still living in TX usually get together with the in-laws. Occasionally, they take Mama out to eat separately. Daddy passed away in 1980, so Mama lives with one of my sisters now. Of course we'll all remember Daddy this year as we eat our feast because it would have been his 88th birthday.
My husband and I usually enjoy a quiet Thanksgiving meal, on a small scale, staying home with the cats, occasionally getting together with friends where everyone brings a dish to share.