Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Over the River and Through the Woods.....

For most of my adult life, I've worked in retail. Thanksgiving to many of my colleagues means Black Friday and the start of the Christmas rush. But for me, Thanksgiving is something far more special.

The very word Thanksgiving evokes an image of my Mom in the kitchen with a frilly apron covering her dress, basting and stirring, preparing a feast.

Unlike the song, we didn't go "over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house" for Thanksgiving. Instead, our house was the gathering place for most holidays. My parents' doors were always open to friends, neighbors, and my grandparents when the weather allowed them to make the long drive from Ohio.

The preparations were marvelous. The good china and crystal had to be carefully washed and dried then my sisters and I would set a festive table with linen tablecloths and fancy napkins. Every year, we'd make a special centerpiece of colorful leaves and flowers and would design homemade place cards for each of our guests. I shudder to think what some of those "masterpieces" must have looked like, but Dad and Mom always praised them as the cleverest and most beautiful they'd ever seen.

Delicious aromas wafted through the house -- sage dressing, roasting turkey, pumpkin pies and fresh rolls baking. Dad would open the record player and put on a favorite Christmas album. That was the first time we'd hear the carols since we'd packed the records away the previous January. While we worked, we sang along with more enthusiasm than harmony, but somehow it all seemed perfect.

In a short while, our guests would arrive. Favorite dishes were added to the already groaning table. Dad would pour glasses of sugary-sweet Mogan David Concorde Wine so everyone could join in a toast. Even the little ones got to have a small taste of wine, and we thought we were so very grown up. It wasn't until I was an adult that I discovered there were far tastier varieties of wine, but I still smile whenever I see that familiar bottle on the shelf in the store.

At Dad's signal, everyone would take their places around the table. It wasn't uncommon for us to host 20 or 30 guests. Mom and Dad weren't wealthy. They were just average, middle class Americans, but there was always room at their table for others. Before eating, Dad led us in Grace then asked everyone to share their reasons to be thankful as we passed dish after dish of holiday specialties.

No one wanted the day to end. Since there was no school the next day, the fun continued well into the evening. The littlest ones would be put to bed in one of the bedrooms while the older kids and adults played games or watched a Christmas program on TV. The party would finally break up around 9:30 or 10:00. Each departing family would get a parcel of leftovers home to take home with them, too.

Dad has been gone now for almost 35 years, and Mom recently had a stroke that put her in a nursing home. However, the hospitality and love they extended to others is a legacy they passed on to their children and grandchildren.

So, this year, we'll gather with my family at my oldest son's home on Thanksgiving. Everyone will bring dishes to contribute to the celebration. We'll laugh and hug, eat and visit, and hopefully make happy memories for the next generation.

But there won't be any Mogan David...at least I don't think so.

My Thanksgiving Wish for you...
May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey be plump
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious,
And your pies take the prize
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!

Happy Thanksgiving!
- Stephanie

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