Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Memories

I am the oldest of six children, so my memories of Thanksgiving tend to be jumbles of noise and children, both from when I and my siblings were youngsters and later, when they brought their own youngsters to the feast. The sheer exuberance of those times are golden sparkles in my memory. I remember one time going to Marshall, Illinois, to have Thanksgiving with Aunt Mamie, Uncle Paul, and a set of aunts, uncle and cousins, some of whom I had never met. There must have been forty people in that house! I remember it because I got to sit at the grown ups' table, a gratifying experience, even if most of the talk was about crops and canning -- they were mostly farmers on that side of the family.

But there is one exception to those times. I was working a killer job, full of stress, and trying to go to college in the evenings as well. Thanksgiving came on the horizon and suddenly I couldn’t face the racket. I begged off and spent the day alone in my apartment half a state away from my sister Therese’s house, where the others gathered. It seemed everyone else in the building had a home to go to for their feast, so it was really quiet. I had somewhere found a half of a turkey breast, so I roasted that, and made a salad and baked a single potato. I found a great old movie on television and watched that. I read a favorite book. I was so grateful for the peace and quiet, I felt no guilt at staying away from the home gathering, and returned to work refreshed and renewed. It was and remains one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories.

This year I am celebrating Thanksgiving twice. Once today, a day early, and again tomorrow, on the actual day. The early Thanksgiving started some years back when a dear friend of mine and my husband’s complained to us that he had to go home to his raucous family, at that time full of ructions and quarrels, for Thanksgiving dinner. He asked us what we were doing, and I said I was roasting the smallest turkey I could find (we LOVE leftovers!), then lighting a fire in the fireplace and settling down with favorite books. He said immediately, “Can I come?” We changed our plans to celebrate Thanksgiving a day early so he could store up the peace and quiet before facing the noisy Thanksgiving. He liked it so much that we continued the custom even after his family stopped marking the holiday by shouting at one another across the dinner table. One year my sister-in-law called to ask if we were holding early Thanksgiving and asked if she could come. She had been caught in the middle of one of those family quarrels whose terms seemed to be, “If she’s coming, then I’m not cooking.” All Margaret wanted was a slice of turkey. We told her she was welcome. After a hiatus of several years, we’re doing it again -- we agreed to do it before we got the invitation to a regular Thanksgiving meal with my husband’s family.

This year we’ll have three guests, all seeking something quiet. We’re in our new place and we don’t have a fireplace. But I bought one of those imitation wood-burning stoves with the fake fire for my office and I may haul it out into the living room to create a little nostalgia.

One dish I’m serving is Aunt Velva’s Bean Salad, which I only make twice a year because it’s so fattening.

Two cans of dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
One small onion, chopped
Four or five little sweet gherkins, sliced into rounds
Two hard boiled eggs, chopped

Mix these ingredients in a bowl and make the dressing:

One-quarter cup cider vinegar
One-half cup sugar
One cup sour cream

Blend well and pour over the bean mixture. Stir. This tastes especially good if you make it the day before and let it marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Have a Happy, Joyous Thanksgiving


signlady217 said...

We're having a small group this year, just 5 family members and a friend for a total of 8 at the table. Usually we have about 15 or so! Then after everyone leaves and I get up from my nap (yes, I will need one!), then I will put the Thanksgiving decorations away and get the Christmas stuff out and start putting it around. I usually do the lights and greenery around the doors and windows first thing, so I can be done with the up and down on the stepstool. That just wears me out! Then the rest is pretty easy to work at on and off throughout the week. Have a great holiday! (BTW, I just love your books!)

Betty Hechtman said...

Thanks for sharing your Thanksgiving memories! I really liked the one where you spent it alone. I could picture the whole thing and feel the sense of relief at having the peace.

The recipe sounds delicious.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Wow, I make a variation of the bean salad with low-fat mayo and LOTS of onions. It's yummy and filling.

Thanks for sharing with us.

Monica Ferris said...

Thank you, signlady217. I, too, will start getting out the Christmas stuff this weekend.