Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Memories

Mom (Christine) decides to gather her clean family together before a family gathering in 1957. L to R) Joe, Denny, Beverly holding Mark, Wayne and J. W (Dad).

J. Mark Lowe
(as it appeared in Robertson County Times, 24, Nov 2010)

I can still remember the excitement of waking up early on Thanksgiving Day so that we could watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Since my birthday was often on Thanksgiving Day, my brothers called it Markey’s Parade. Can you imagine how spoiled I really must be? The smell of sage, cornbread and turkey filled the air.
Probably wearing my Davy Crockett pajamas, I would plant a pillow in front of the TV and wait for the excitement to begin. It is amazing we ever watched any of the parade with all the excitement happening around the house. We rarely celebrated any holiday without additional family or friends visiting.
One year, our Aunt Martha (my Dad’s sister) and Uncle Kenny came from Oklahoma City for Thanksgiving Day. This also meant their son, Jimmy, came along. He was about a year older than me and we always had a good time.
About a day or two before Thanksgiving, Aunt Martha would persuade one of two of the kids to go to town with her. Although there was some work involved, we all would jump at the chance. This year it was my turn. Aunt Martha and I headed to town in her pink cadillac. We went directly to the Kroger store on 7th and Locust. This is the site of the Alternative School today. This was one of my favorite stores because I would get to see Mrs Watha Farmer. Miss Watha was just one of the sweetest people I ever knew. I always got a big hug from her when we got to the store and when we were leaving.
I started with my hug and Aunt Martha had me push the buggy down the aisles. Although my Mom had already bought everything for the Thanksgiving dinner, Aunt Martha got a great joy in shopping. We would buy whole cranberries, jelled cranberry sauce, and cranberry relish. We bought pecans, oranges, apples, grapes, and bananas for Aunt Martha’s fruit salad. Once the buggy was full, he headed to Miss Watha’s register. Once the tally was made, I got my farewell hug and headed to the car to help load the groceries in the pink cadillac. Sometimes, Aunt Martha would have another store or two on her agenda, but on this particular day, we headed back to Cedar Hill.
Once we arrived back home and began to unload the groceries, it was always fun to watch my Mom decide where to put all of these ‘extra’ groceries. Aunt Martha would almost giggle with excitement. My Mom would exclaim, “Martha Doolittle, what am I going to do with you?” I can assure you that when my Mom passed away, there were still cans of jelled cranberry sauce in the cupboard purchased by Aunt Martha.
It was always hard to go to school when we had company at home. But going to school the day before Thanksgiving Day was particularly hard. Although the teachers planned special activities, the school was a buzz with holiday talk. Since I was in the primary grades, we would complete our Thanksgiving art projects. They often included leaves colored in the shades of Autumn, Pilgrims in hats or turkeys made by tracing our hands with colorful tail feathers.
I guess the highlight of the school day would be the Thanksgiving lunch in the cafeteria. We were blessed with wonderful people in the school cafeteria like Flossie Haynes, Janie Ruth Armstrong, Ora Corbin, Ethel Poole and others. They always prepared wonderful food, but especially the holiday meals. I really don’t remember if we stayed at school all day or got out early for Thanksgiving, perhaps because I was so excited to get home and play with my cousin, Jimmy.
It seemed the weather around here for Thanksgiving was often mild and we enjoyed playing in the yard and fields. We might even sneak down to Lowe’s Feed Mill so that we could get a bag of peanuts and cold drink. I wasn’t supposed to cross the railroad tracks in Cedar Hill by myself, so with my cousin I felt free to do so. My Dad would say, “You be very careful crossing those railroad tracks!”
As we headed back to the house, we would talk about what we were going to do when we grew up. Jimmy always said he was joining the circus. Today, he runs a travelling carnival in the southwest. I often suggested that I might be a fireman, or a bank teller. When we got close to my parents’ house, we might see a tractor-trailer (or transfer truck as we called it) pass on the highway and we decided we might get them to blow their air horns. Highway 41 passed right in front of our house and since there were no Interstate Highways at that time, this was one of the major federal highways and traffic was heavy. We sat out near the road and watched for trucks. When we saw one coming down the hill near St. James Baptist Church, we would stand and begin our motion of pulling the horn cable. Many of the drivers would accommodate by blowing their air horns and we would laugh and jump with delight when they did.
Let’s get back to Thanksgiving morning. I don’t remember if the parade was on multiple channels in the old days. We didn’t have remote controls and we children served as the remote. But we were watching my parade and waiting for every band, float, and big balloon. Sometime during the morning, my Mom would interrupt the parade and ask for someone to taste her cornbread dressing. I loved my Mom’s cornbread dressing and tasting it was a real treat for all of us. Once she had our approval, she would divide the dressing into individual servings and pat them into small mounds for baking. That cornbread dressing was the only thing that could pull us away from the parade.
Aunt Martha would be busy helping in the kitchen, but she was also making her fruit salad. She would even peel those grapes. Aunt Martha’s fruit salad was served at many of our important family gatherings, including a few wedding receptions.
You might think that the food was the most important part of this gathering, but without the wonderful family and friends, a Thanksgiving feast would just be good food. May you and your family create special memories on this day of giving Thanks and remembering the family times of our collective history.

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