The Unforgettable Thanksgiving
(Posted November 16, 2023)
“If the family were a boat, it would be a canoe that makes no progress unless everyone paddles." – Letty Cottin Pogrebin, author and journalist
When I look back on Thanksgiving, it’s the ones we spent at my Grandmother’s that I remember most. And there was one particular one we can never forget.
My earliest memories of Thanksgiving all take place from the viewpoint of a seven-year-old under the dining room table, covered by our family “special occasion” fine lace tablecloth. From there I would see how my grandmother’s slender Irish ankles whisked back and forth as she set the table with the good china and the good Fostoria water goblets.
Only the best for the family holiday. Eventually I grew up enough to join the grownups. My childhood mispronunciation for “grandmother” was Gommie.
The Aromas of Thanksgiving
Most of all, I remember the aromas, which were more than just the roasting turkey. My Grandfather had to watch football with a Phillies panatela stogie tucked in his cheek and a wreath of smoke around him. My father disdainfully called them “Jim’s ropes.”
There were Parker House rolls baking. There was the tang of cranberries simmering on the stove and, of course, the peat-y smell of scotch as my Dad began his self-appointed role as bartender.
The Family Thanksgiving
We numbered six people most years now that Mom was gone. My Aunt Shirley and Uncle Bud rounded out the group. Now, you’d think that this would be a peaceful assembly. But it was not. It was family. And with so many assertive personalities in one room there were moments that were more an act of tolerating one another than fuzzy love.
Dad and Bud in particular barely tolerated one another for the family. They bickered on and off, whether the topic was football, politics, or Bud’s spotty employment history.
My Gommie was too busy in the kitchen to become involved with the drama. My Dad, knowing she had a low tolerance for liquor, would make her a particularly strong drink. Whenever she went back in the kitchen, he’d top it off with more scotch. And then came the Thanksgiving we’ll never forget.
I kind of noticed that Gommie, who was about to turn 80, was the last time around a little wobbly, walking back and forth to the kitchen to baste the bird. Off she went behind the kitchen door. Suddenly there was a tremendous crash. It made us all jump to our feet. When we all burst through the door, what a sight we beheld! There was my Grandmother seated on the kitchen floor in front of the oven in a pool of turkey drippings, with the dropped bird spinning in the grease between her legs.
She laughed – and laughed and laughed. Gommie was more basted than the turkey. We quickly got her on her feet, wiped her down and put her in the bedroom for a nice nap while the rest of us washed off the turkey and finished making dinner.
What had been bickering in the living room turned into a coordinated family effort to put a lovely dinner on the table. Gommie returned from her nap. It turns out, when you’re family, there can be “peace among the peas” if we all pull together.
It was the best Thanksgiving ever. Heck - we even selflessly shared the Parker House rolls.
Why We’re Truly Thankful
The moral of my Thanksgiving story is this: Our most potent gratitude is not for the food. It’s not for the invitation to the table.
At Thanksgiving we learn we are thankful for the family and friends we gather around us, because truly, our gift from God is to let our souls embrace one another at the table. So… please pass the gravy! God bless you all