It used to be, when November rolled around, that my front door sported a nice, tastful wreath with those "almost look real" silk autumn colored leaves. Today I've got two different Thanksgiving themed decorations hanging - both of the some foam craft kit product, glued together by a three-year old. As I taped up the brightly colored scarecrow, I started to think of my own history of Thanksgiving. The very ritual of the holiday melds each one together over the years, although there are a few that stand-out in my mind.
When I was young (as in grade school young) we used to trek to my Grandmother and Uncle's apartment for Thanksgiving. Nanny was the type of cook that only did one recipe well - and friends, turkey was not it. It wasn't until she and my uncle moved out of the apartment that I discovered I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner components. Their move relocated the dinner to our house. My mom, she's a good cook. One year, my grandmother woke up late. She forgot she had a bird to roast. She was determined to get dinner on the table on time, however, because she wasn't one that wanted her company to linger any longer than they needed to. Her plan? Well she'd just cook the bird at a higher temp for the same amount of time. Please open your imaginations now and picture the dry meat lying beside the bones of a once edible turkey as she pulled it from the oven.
Living in the castle at my college was more than just a boost to your 'status' on campus. It was a boon for your fridge! The ballroom and gallery were often host to special meeting and banquets. Food services never got back in a timely manner to pick-up the leftovers. My fellow residents and I would sneak down and lay claim to whatever was left behind before it was removed. In fact, we went a few months with fresh flowers this way. We'd just return the old vase when we picked up the new one.
Every year the week before Thanksgiving, the commuter's club would have a pot luck banquet. The only thing the club contributed was the turkey. We never thought they'd leave their stuff behind for Food Services to clean up. On a whim my roommate and I decided to check things out. We smelled gravy and stuffing. We were hungry. The Dining Hall only featured good food when parents were around, or so it seemed.
Kath was harrassing me about going in. I kept hissing at her to just hush up and sneak. Yes, I was very much the instigator. What we found was a full-out bounty. Rolls, potatoes, pies, stuffing, veggies. . .you name it, it was left out there for us. We started filling plates with left-overs. We found a box of tin foil and began wrapping with glee. I came across a giant covered roasting pan.
"No way," said K, shaking her head. "You're nuts. There is no way."
She couldn't see what I saw when I first lifted the lid. I started to laugh. She snapped at me to be quiet unless I felt like telling her what was so funny.
"Kath," I said, using her name as a way to squelsh my giggles. I moved the lid so it was no longer in her way. "There is an entire friggin' turkey in here."
She collapsed into laughter. She sat crossed-legged on the floor holding her sides. I, on the other hand, began to carve. That week, before leaving for our short holiday break, well the eating was good.
When we were married about a year, my husband's aunt sold her shop and home (which was above said shop). She had decided to move permanently into her vacation home. She had no children of her own. She had two nephews and two neices...and their array of spouses and children. The gaggle of us (minus one of her nephews and his wife) begrudingly headed to her now former residence to help her move.
She didn't have room in the apartment portion of the building to serve dinner to us all. Instead she'd serve us in the store - the back of her convenience store/deli at an oversized wooden picnic table. We worked on packing and organizing most of Thanksgiving Day. In the process, the turkey was overcooked, no gravy was made, the potatoes were forgotten and the stuffing got burnt. The only good thing to eat was the fancy bread one of the teenagers had brought from work.
On top of that, we were dirty. We were sweaty and slightly dishelved. The store was to be closed, but there was never a sale Auntie passed up. When someone would call to see if was open because "Darn I forgot to buy the bread to make stuffing!" she'd cheerily agree to open the door, "just for you!" Those people would come in and stare at us in the corner. They'd throw us a look and then smile at her as if to say "You kind old woman taking in these poor people and feeding them on the holiday."
If they only knew her. . .