Childhood memories of Thanksgiving all revolve around my Grandmother Pearl. Every Thanksgiving, the whole family would congregate at her home for dinner. I could hardly wait for my parents to get up so we could be on our way to her house. I knew there would be so many good things to eat. Plus I would get to be with my favorite Grandmother for the day.
There would be around 50 of us in her very small house even though her house was no more than 800 square feet. It had a living room with a big archway that opened into what should have been the dining room, but she used it as their bedroom. Then the small kitchen had only 8 feet of counter and cabinet space, but there was a dining table in there to work on. There was a small bathroom and one small spare bedroom.
When a holiday came around and it was time to feed the whole family they had to take down her bed so they could set up at least 10 feet of tables in the living and dining room. They would take the two mattresses into the other bedroom and pile them on top of the old iron frame bed. Then there was room for the tables to run from the dining (bed) room into the living room.
Her house always had such a wonderful aroma when you came in the door. She had been up at 2:00 A.M to get the turkey in the oven, so by the time we arrived at 10:00 AM .it was ready to carve. She had baked the pumpkin, mincemeat, and cherry pies the day before.
Her stove was an apartment size, so small it was lucky to hold the large turkey she bought for the dinners. When the turkey came out of the oven I was always right there, because I wanted the liver and gizzard. I would try to talk her out of them before she added them to the dressing, and Grandmother rarely denied me something I wanted.
By 11:30 one of my aunts would be busy mashing about 15 pounds of potatoes; while on the stove a large pan of gravy was cooking. As Grandmother was carving the turkey, the sweet potatoes would be warming in the oven, along with the dressing, minus the giblets of course.
Then the kids were enlisted to help set the table, which I never understood. Why did we have to set the table when we were not allowed to sit at it? There was just enough room for the adults, and the kids had to fill their plates from the dishes on the table and hunt for a space in the house to sit.
If the weather was nice, some of the older boys would go out and sit on the back porch. That was ok with the 3 girl cousins and the younger boys; we wouldn’t have to deal with their teasing.
So we would go into the spare bedroom and climb up on the 4 mattresses. But we had to have a system since it was so high. The largest kid would climb up first and then hold the plates of the others while they scrambled up on a chair and then onto the bed. It was so high that it seemed like we were eating in a tree house.
We had our own dining room in the sky. We could act as silly as we pleased, until someone got to loud. Then we would hear one of our parents yell at us to quiet down.
Going back for seconds was a real obstacle course. We had to walk around the table to find what we wanted, because it was never where it had been before.
Then it was a game of dodge the elbows or someone trying to tickle us, to get in and get the spoon for another helping. I always had to have a piece of Grandmother’s pumpkin pie, and then before we went home a piece of REAL mincemeat pie. It was the best.
Grandmother’s small inviting home would welcome all of the family and swell with love, but somehow managed not to split at the seams. Most cousins today do not have the opportunity to become as close as we did. We were together every holiday, and for most birthdays during the year so we were almost like brothers and sisters.
We lost Grandmother when I was 15. The family dinners ended and the family drifted apart. Each family had their own dinners for their children and grandkids. I had not managed to get old enough to eat at the adult table with my Grandmother, but the childhood memories of her Thanksgiving dinners are still vivid. To email Sandy: [email protected]