With the big turkey day coming up I thought I would share a few things here on the Fritter about days gone by. Thanksgiving doesn’t mean much to me anymore. It’s been a long time since I really celebrated the day. Oh, I get the invitation now and then to come to dinner. Last year the marina threw a big feed and it was all good. But it just wasn’t the same. The food was great and all, but not what I remember.
When I was but a wee lad growing up in the mountains of Pa., Thanksgiving was a big deal. For me as a kid, it meant 5 days off from wretched school. We got 5 days because the Monday after Thanksgiving was also the first day of deer season and back then, deer season was serious business. But before I started hunting, it meant 5 glorious days off to do nothing. Thanksgiving itself was a very big event in the family.
We always went to my Grandparents house for dinner. It was tradition and everyone looked forward to it. Their house was always warm with a fire going in the fireplace and some awesome smells coming from the kitchen. In the morning I would get up and watch some of the parades on tv. Then it was get dressed up and off to dinner.
By then most of the family had grown up and moved away. Started their own families in other states but we still managed to gather up about a dozen or so assorted aunts, uncles, and cousins. As the afternoon went on, the wimmen folk all stayed in the kitchen doing up the cooking. The men folk all gravitated to the living room to drink and watch football. My Grandfather, whom I was very close to, sat at his usual spot at the end of the couch. A bowl of peanuts at his side, a glass of Crown Royal and 7Up in his hand. If I was lucky I got to sit beside him and share the peanuts, but not the drink. We watched football, laughed and joked, and every hour or so the phone would ring with one of the other family calling in from far away. My Grandfather had a perpetual smile on his face all day as he got to spend time with his family and talk to those who had moved away.
Eventually, Grandma would call from the kitchen and it was time to carve up the bird. By then we were all ravenous. The dining room table is something I still remember to this day. It was a huge wooden thing which looked like it had been carved from a single massive tree. Alas, when I was younger I was relegated to the kids table in the other room but it was still all good. Eventually I got to sit at the big table.
As for the food it was awesome. Best I ever had. The bird was the size of a small ostrich with plenty of filling, (we call it filling, not stuffing), mashed taters, and all the fixin’s. Everyone ate until they burst and then ate more. If there was one thing my Grandma could do it was cook. I’ve never had any Thanksgiving meal come close to what she put out on the table.
Afterwards we sat around and groaned, digested, and of course ate some more. Then back home for the rest of the weekend. Black Friday wasn’t a thing back then. It was a big shopping day but nothing like now. There was no wallymarts back then, just local department stores. The town put on it’s holiday parade, nothing like the parade down here, trust me, and I generally got to goof off the rest of the weekend.
We would go back out to the Grandparents on Saturday for leftover turkey sammiches and then my Grandfather and I, and sometimes my Dad and uncles would go bowling. Saturday bowling was a tradition for me and my Grandpap. We would go nearly every week and enjoy the afternoon. Sometimes Grandma would join us. She could barely hold the ball and walk slowly up to the lane to release it, but she was good at it.
I admire my Grandfather like no other relative. He served in the army at the age of 16. A farrier in the calvary, which means he shoed horses. He went with Pershing down to Texas and Mexico to chase Pancho Villa, even saw some combat. We have a copy of his military record still. When he returned he announced to Grandma they were packing up and moving to Texas. Apparently he liked there. Grandma said no, so they stayed. They raised 6 kids together through depression and world war. Grandpap started a roofing and heating business. When the war came, rationing shut him down so he taught shop classes at the high school. Grandma started a small bakery downtown. After the war he got the roofing business going again.
Grandpap and I were close. He loved baseball and more than a few times I went out to the house and sat on the back porch in the summer with him and listened to the Pirates on the radio. He loved ice cream and once in awhile we snuck across the street to the local dairy for a sundae. My last Thanksgiving with him was around 1977. By then I had moved away but managed to come back before going to Florida. In 1979 I got word he had terminal cancer. Working with asbestos and lead in the roofing business caught up with him. I got to see him one last time and I was shocked at what the disease had done to him. He was a big, strong man, and had wasted away to nothing. I was devastated. A few months later he passed away. Three months later, Grandma died, of a broken heart.
The family all went it’s separate ways afterwards. My folks started hosting Thanksgiving with some of the relatives from both sides of the family but I never made it back for any. It’s ok though. I still have the memories and nothing will erase them. Those few hours we spent at the Grandparents were some of the best of the year. It seemed like everyone was happy and nobody had a care in the world. At least it’s how I like to remember it. And who knows, perhaps down the road I may start up a new Thanksgiving tradition. Never know what might happen.
Anyways, I don’t mean to get all goopy and such but the memories I have of those times are still strong. If nothing else, I urge all of you who stop by this blog to make some fond memories for yourselves. Spend some time with the older generations of your family if you can. Same with you older folks, spend some time with the youngun’s and share some family history with them. Get everyone to sit at a big table covered with food and eat like there is no tomorrow. It only happens once a year, and sometimes not at all so take advantage of any opportunity to gather the clans and celebrate.
I don’t get all homesick for the old days, well…maybe a little, but it’s all good. I’ll sit down to a bowl of watery gruel and stone soup on Thursday, think about Grandpap and I sharing a bowl of peanuts, smile, and chow away. Memories are a good thing sometimes and this one is special. And while thinking about all who have gone is a little depressing, I think more about how sad things would be if I didn’t have those memories. Nope, those were good times and it’s healthy to remember and share them. Hope you don’t mind me sharing with you.
Thanks to everyone for stopping by the Fritter over the years. I really do appreciate it. I’ll keep going if you’ll keep coming with me.
As you can tell, I’m about over this crap I’ve been fighting for the last three weeks. Nonetheless I’m taking the rest of the week off to fully recover. Check back on Thursday for the traditional Fritter posting and I’ll be back next week to kick the hell out of the holiday season. Stay safe everyone, enjoy the holidays in whatever way you celebrate said holidays, and I’ll see you back here soon.