The Thanksgiving that wasn’t but was

  • Friday, October 25, 2013

Family dinner

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. To be with loved ones and seeing all the feast in the prettiest bowls and platters made everything perfect. The Thanksgiving that I remember dawned like any other Thanksgiving in Summerville. Still warm, but a hint of autumn. My parents, my sister and I were staying home instead of going to Conway where mother’s family would celebrate the day. It seems that for the first time we were not invited. Each time this was discussed, all eyes turned on me. For the life of me I couldn’t remember what I had done the year before that would banish my whole family. This also meant that our holiday meal was in mother’s hands. Things were not looking good.

After breakfast where turkey and pumpkin were not mentioned once, mother announced it was a perfect day for yard work, so her little motley crew followed her outside. Mother had a love-hate relationship with a kudzu vine by the garage. She hated it and the vine loved, no matter what mother did, getting stronger and spreading.

My sister and I were given rakes and assigned sections of the yard. Peace lasted for about 10 minutes, until I wailed, “She’s putting all her leaves on my side,” and she wailed, “She looked at me,” etc., etc., etc.

Daddy came and took my sister with him to the flower beds. I was sent to the back of our yard to my small critter cemetery. Turtles, goldfish and a few dead things I brought home for a proper funeral, all rested in peace. This plot of land had taught me two very valuable rules to remember if I ever planned to reach the ripe old age of 10. This seemed to grow more doubtful, each passing day. Rule No. 1 never never never use mother’s jewelry box for a casket, even if it was lined in satin. Rule No. 2 do not use the monogrammed napkins from the dining room to wrap bodies in. Mercy, what a fuss, that caused.

Soon mother called us in, and there on the breakfast room table, was a bowl of hard boiled eggs. I thought poor mother, got her holidays mixed up. She didn’t even offer for us to dye the eggs, just eat them. What a pitiful Thanksgiving/Easter. We were sent to wash, and go take a nap. I was about to find out if you starve to death, do you just go to sleep?

Later mother came in with one of my Sunday School dresses, at least it didn’t have Easter bunnies on it. Just as the last button was taken care of, I heard a lot of noise in the back yard. I rushed out and there were cars everywhere and getting out of those cars were the people I loved. Great aunts and uncles, two uncles, and an aunt, cousins by the dozen, and best of all my Nana. From the car trunks came the Thanksgiving feast. On and on they marched into the house.

Now all of mother’s family were very good Methodists and didn’t drink. Well, didn’t drink in front of their spouses. They were delighted, when mother married a heathen Episcopalian who did drink. All of the men trooped out to the garage to see our car. Daddy had the bar ready, so it took awhile to be inspected.

But, the ladies didn’t mind, because as soon as the men departed, the sherry bottles appeared. So the men were in the garage, clearly getting our car ready for the Indy 500. The ladies were in the kitchen enjoying some gossip, and maybe just a little more sherry. Aunt Gladys was in the dining room, resetting the tables, because they didn’t meet her high standards. No matter how hard she searched, she couldn’t find one of the monogrammed napkins. I didn’t think she wanted me to get it for her. All of us cousins by the dozen were in the front yard running races, pushing one another down, and going inside to tell on someone, every five minutes. Our family get-together was running true to form.

Finally we were called to dinner. Pure heaven. Then for me the very best part of the day. Everyone went out on the front porch. Some nodded to sleep in rocking chairs, while others told family stories about people long gone and those who were sleeping on the porch. My daddy, the master story teller, would take center stage and tell the best tall tales.

All too soon it was time to go. The feast was divided, and my parents, my sister, and I waved goodbye until we could no longer see a single car. If the phrase had been coined way back then, mother would have looked at us and said, “Gotcha, gotcha good.”

Brenda Loyd Allred grew up in Summerville when it was a very small town. She now lives at Franke at Seaside with her husband Les.

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