Staying on The Funny Side of Thanksgiving
I just read an advert that said you can get your whole Thanksgiving dinner in a bag, complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, and a overly critical mother-in-law. Escape the paddles for Great Aunt Ethel that a real day would come when holiday food would be poured out of a bag in a house filled with the smells of hot plastic plus the sounds of a crackling microwave. I'm able to just see my Granny Jean staring down from exceptional all-you-can-eat buffet in the sky, curling up her lip and saying, "That seriously isn't how Thanksgiving is supposed to be. Now, Peter, you know sweet potatoes go in the gold dish."
When I used to be growing up Thanksgiving was about one thing and one thing only - food. Not thankfulness, not pride in how far we've come, but food. A run-in with the law? We'll forgive you. Spent last summer naked over a commune chanting Kumbaya? We'll pray for yourself. But bring instant mashed potatoes to a family reunion and you will be shunned for three generations.
I remember how relatives originated from miles around, descending on Granny Jean's house like ants running towards that last morsel of egg salad left over a deserted picnic table - bringing their newest additions, latest attachments, lingering grudges, philosophies on life, and whatever dish we were holding known for making - like Aunt Vyrnetta's mashed potato surprise which trained me in that surprise isn't necessarily a good thing. Or Aunt Bitsy's congealed salad wreath filled with fruit cocktail, that kept moving a very good ten minutes after you place it down, much like Aunt Bitsy herself.
Our stuffing had sage within it, our cornbread had corn within it, our biscuits (yes, biscuits and cornbread) were so light and buttery we were holding known to turn heathens into saints right then. And our green beans were so greased up the lips had a permanent sheen of lard gloss for three days. And no matter the amount of people were there or the length of time we stayed, there is always plenty of food.
It was a time when women gathered with the cooking to whisk and whisper. When children explored nooks and crannies on the house whose dark rooms whispered untold secrets. When men tested each other's engines and argued over baseball and politics while young families found quiet corners to steal a kiss. There was no television going. There have been no faces glued to video game titles. Just the sound of laughter.
I can recall the year we were traveling plus the station wagon broke down and we had to trade Granny's holiday buffet for the sticky stool on the Waffle House, sharing dinner with three musicians from Utah and also a waitress named Star. We're kids, so it qualified as a new adventure. Who needs a warm fire and soft music when you might have pancakes with whipped topping?
That was the season I learned that everything doesn't always stay the same. And each and every year as I age group I watch tiny pieces being chipped far from that warm Thanksgiving painting. No more sage from the stuffing. Some too busy in the future this year. Biscuits originating from a can. Another empty chair. A fat-free salad and oyster stew. And sometimes the change is as subtle since the shift in my perspective.
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Sometimes this makes me sad and i also long for just one of those moments back - just a scent - merely to hear that laughter one more time - to feel Granny's warm biscuit-scented hands wrapped around my face. But, if I'm lucky, I remember that even as I speak We're creating new memories. And easily because the memories aren't the same as they once were, they may one day be treasured as often, whether it's a warm spot through the fireplace or sitting on the seat on the sticky stool from the Waffle House eating pancakes and whipped topping with three musicians from Utah and also a waitress named Star.