November, then and now, signals just one thing to me, Thanksgiving at Grandma’s. Thanksgiving at her house was paradise! The atmosphere of food, laughter and love was wonderful and unforgettable.
Thanksgiving morning at our house was busy. Mom would prepare a salad or pie; we kids would dress up in our good clothes and then go outside to play. We had to be careful not to get dirty. Good clothes in our family didn’t come easy. We weren’t poor but we were very frugal with money and food. Meanwhile, Dad stayed busy in the garage checking out the old Chevy. He’d check the oil, water and the battery and then give the tires a kick, for readiness.
Often, I would go into the garage from time to time to see how he was doing. Often, he found things for me to do-such as checking the oil and water and inspecting the car battery to see if was clean and water filled to the proper level. I always felt important helping Dad, especially on holidays, when there was much to do.
Later, around 12 we all piled into the Chevy, eager for Thanksgiving dinner. We would arrive at Grandma’s, all dressed up, gifts in hand, with offerings of a waldorf salad and pie. As we walked through her door the aroma of turkey and onions would fill our senses with the joy of delicious food to come. That first whiff of turkey and steamed vegetables was delicious! We walked through the house into her kitchen and put our donations of food and small gifts, (often a bottle of Rum) onto the kitchen table, kiss Grandma and then go into the living room where we would sit and talk. Later, Mom and I would return to the kitchen and help Grandma with the meal.
It was my job to help Grandma prepare the dressing, with ingredients of butter, celery, bread, milk, and onion, then help with the progress of the turkey. Mom would put her donations of food into the already crammed refrigerator and then prepare green beans or another salad for dinner. Inside the oven the turkey was roasting, and occasionally Grandma would let me use her large ladling spoon to baste the turkey. Later, Grandma and I would finish preparing a pie—often apple or cherry. I would round out the crust while she prepared the filling. After that was done, we’d check on the vegetables and then I would set the table.
I loved that job because she had beautiful crystal and China, with delicate pink and blue patterns on the dishes and matching pink crystal for glasses. She also had beautiful silverware that was kept in a special drawer in the living room. I would carefully remove the dinnerware from the old ornate cabinet in the dining room and tenderly place each piece in the proper setting. I loved how it all sparkled on the table.
The meal of Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes; real green beans, cranberries and pie filled us up till we could eat no more. We would all sit at the large table, enjoy her traditional Thanksgiving meal and talk about the latest “Uncle Millie” or “Jackie Gleason” shows. We all loved those shows and each of us tried to “out do” each other, with our imitations of “Uncle Miltie” or “Jackie Gleason.”
The adults would later have wine or brandy and we kids would go out and play in the small backyard. Sometimes I would deliver food Grandma prepared for an old lady across the street. The old lady lived alone and was often too ill to prepare food for herself. I loved doing this for Grandma, and the old lady was always happy to receive it. I took pride running this errand because I helped Grandma prepare much of the meal.
Today, I continue Grandma’s Thanksgiving meal. I prepare many of the same kind of foods she prepared ---homemade turkey dressing, several salads and pie. Many in my family can’t attend because they live too far away. But, those who do enjoy a Thanksgiving meal of the 50’s. You see, Grandma’s gone, but her traditions live on in a woman from the 50’s.