Thanksgiving: A holiday held on the fourth Thursday in November in the USA and the second Monday in October for those hanging out above us (AKA Canadians), to commemorate the harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621. It is a time when NORMAL families gather to partake in traditional dishes, polite conversation and relaxed dining. Yeah, right.
For my family, normalcy is not only a moving target, at times it isn’t even in range. We have had our moments and like it or not the DNA has trickled down to the next generation. One of my favorite Thanksgivings was a result of a highly creative middle child and my belief that it is best to encourage your children to go with their strengths. Therefore, when Helena suggested we have a REAL Thanksgiving and break out the Pilgrim and Native American attire complete with tribal face paint, we were on board. We had a great feast but we did have to tell Helena, who is not only creative but highly sensitive, that just like the critters hanging on the walls of Cabela’s, “Mr. Turkey” had died of natural causes and it would be a shame to have him go to waste. I have to give my family credit. There we were at the dining room table, my Dad dressed as the chief, the rest of us as an assorted crew of Pilgrims and natives and my poor cousin Tom who was last in line to go through our dress-up chest, sporting a fake fur and loin cloth wrapped around his Levis.
I have vivid recollections of dropped turkeys and my all time favorite of SOMEONE thinking that “take pie out of container” means taking the frozen pie out of not only the box but the tin. After baking it, the end result was something that looked like it was steamrolled on the baking sheet. None of these however could ever top the “Cranberry Thanksgiving” of my youth.
Comparing my parent’s families is like comparing apples to oranges. Actually, avocados and kumquats would be more accurate. On that fateful Thanksgiving day, my Mom was informed by my Grandmother Scheib (highly educated, pillar of society, surgeon’s wife) that she had a more pressing engagement to attend to before gracing us with her presence, but that we were to wait for her to eat. Well, we waited and waited some more. It was then that my grandfather, A.K.A. Pops, took matters into his own hands. Pops, who had just enough Irish in him to make him handy and very popular at parties, whipped up his famous cranberry punch. The punch is a secret family recipe that consists of one cup ginger ale, a bottle of bourbon and one happy little cranberry floating on the surface. The unsuspecting older members of our gathering began to imbibe. It wasn’t long before my mother was found in the kitchen, apron off kilter, talking to the turkey. Her mother, my Gram, revealed to me that she always thought she would be a grand ballerina and proceeded to show me some moves in the family room. She wasn’t half bad for an 80 year old!
The dining table dance
My Grandmother finally arrived! We were already seated at the dining room table giving a cheer for the turkey as if we were at a Big 10 game when she joined us. My poor Dad and Aunt MG tried to maintain decorum and calm the crazies but to no avail. My cousin Don who had been told numerous times that the gravy bowl was not attached to the plate it was placed upon, tossed it in my direction with a “Here Mar!” It toppled causing gravy to ooze slowly down the table as if it were the “blob” in a horror flick. My Mom, still “cranberried,” jumped up, got a big spoon and returned to scoop up the mess. She couldn’t figure out why the gravy was splattering all over when she tried to pick it up. It was then my Grandmother said in her best Church Lady “you’ll be sitting with Satan” voice, “I believe it would be more advantageous to use a non-slotted spoon.” After dinner my Dad (the brains of our operation) informed us we were going to take a walk around the neighborhood to get some fresh air. “Fresh air” was and still is my family’s remedy for pretty much everything.
Since that time those of us living above the Mason-Dixon Line annually trek south to be with my brother and his family in Florida for Thanksgiving. We now have a side dish of sun and surf with the holiday, proving we are smarter than we look. My brother Jim and his wife Rheta put out quite a spread. We haven’t gotten into our Pilgrim gear lately and we stick with wine and moderation, but the blessing of being a part of this zany flock warms my heart, for which I am always thankful.