The arrival of nippy weather signals the approach of the holiday season and it naturally evokes memories of seasons gone by. Some were happy and joyous ones, while others were not so joyous.
Thursday, the country pauses to celebrate Thanksgiving. Initially a day of thanking God for our blessings, it has become a secular holiday, celebrating the blessings we enjoy as Americans. For some, it simply means turkey and football. Fortunately, we live in a country where traditions are subject to many interpretations. After all, as Joe Kirby, MDJ’s editorial page editor, has pointed out in a prior column, it is pretty certain that the first Thanksgiving Day celebrants did not feast on turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce and enjoy the Dallas Cowboys.
My memories of bygone Thanksgiving Days, except one, are probably not dissimilar from those of most people my age, in Cobb County or elsewhere. The earliest memories I have are of lean hard times on a badland farm/ranch in west Texas in the late 1930s and early ’40s, as that area struggled to dig its way out of the Great Depression. The stock reports we listened to had little to do with the trading on the NYSE, or the Dow-Jones Averages, and more to do with the going price for hogs and yearlings, cotton futures, pork bellies and soy beans.
In those days, if we paused in our “can to can’t” work days long enough to celebrate our blessings, it was brief. We continually thanked God for each day that the place didn’t blow away in a sandstorm, or that the early stand of maize and soy beans did not get beaten down by a hailstorm, or burned to a crisp from endless weeks with no rain.
I remember our first real “formal” Thanksgiving Day celebration after the war. We didn’t raise turkeys. We had, instead, a couple of good sized hens, roasted in pans of cornbread dressing. We didn’t stuff the dressing into the birds as people put stuffing into turkeys. There was sure to be giblet gravy, candied sweet potatoes, green beans and mashed potatoes. If we had pie, it was not pumpkin, for that is something else we did not raise. Most likely it was sweet potato pie or maybe molasses. On rare occasions, it might be pecan pie.
For the first three years we were married, my wife and I spent Thanksgiving with our families. Even after my company moved us away from our hometown, it was only a three hour drive back. Ultimately, though, we faced our first Thanksgiving on our own. My wife was the youngest of four girls in her family and very close to a doting mother, but she made big plans for our first Thanksgiving as a family.
We had a lot to be thankful for. Our daughter had been born in late August of the previous year. However, my wife’s emotional problems, resulting from the birth of the baby, and her subsequent recovery from them, kept us apart for the better part of three months, but by Thanksgiving 1959, that was, thankfully, behind us and we looked forward to our first family holiday.
As we sat down to eat, I think the realization that we finally were “on our own,” coupled with the fact that the hen did not look particularly appetizing, and other feelings I can neither explain nor excuse, we both lost our appetites. We packed the food up, took it to the Salvation Army kitchen and went out for a hamburger.
A strange memory I’ll admit, but it is one that comes back each time I hear the phrase “traditional Thanksgiving dinner.” We had a lot more Thanksgiving dinners, but that one will always stand out in my memory.
This is my Thanksgiving 2012 wish for you. Whatever Thanksgiving memories you happen to have, may this one be, if not the best, at least one the best that you will recall in later years, with a smile in your heart.
Happy Thanksgiving, Cobb County and the world!
Pete Borden is a retired masonry contractor in east Cobb.