My earliest memories of Thanksgiving are from Hackensack, New Jersey. Dad was stationed at Ellis Island (Statue of Liberty) at that time and we attended the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in person for two years in a row. I don’t remember our Thanksgiving dinner, as such; only that we attended Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and then watched the parade.
A few years later Mom and Dad decided to retire in California; since all our relatives lived on the East Coast, we celebrated each Thanksgiving – just the four of us. Mom and Dad made all the ‘traditions’ for our family, especially for Jim and me. Each Thanksgiving morning we attended a thanks-giving Mass at Saint Lucy’s Catholic Church in Campbell, California. It was a small church, maybe a couple hundred parishioners, at most, and our pastor, Father O’Connelly. Father O’Connelly, such an appropriate name for a priest, was from Ireland and spoke with a brogue - I have so many great memories of this gentle man and how he shepherded his flock. We were in attendance every Sunday, every Saturday for catechism, all Holy Days of Obligation and special feasts, too; Thanksgiving was just one of them.
Each year, after Mass, Dad, Jim and I donned our red and white Campbell, California High School colors to attend the annual Campbell High School versus Los Gatos High School football game. The rivalry between the two schools was fierce and we enjoyed every minute of every Thanksgiving game. It was the only time I ever went to a football game with my dad, so it remains a special memory for me. Throughout my childhood we listened to games on the radio and later watched many games on TV, but that one game a year was for attending ‘in person.’
While the three of us were cheering for our local high school, Mom maintained her management of the kitchen at home, creating our traditional turkey dinner. For many years it even included a turkey raised on our little ranch. Every year Dad bought some turkey chicks that Jim and I believed we were ‘helping’ to feed and watch grow – mainly we cuddled and played with them. When Thanksgiving drew near, Mom would get requests for freshly killed turkeys from select customers of her year-round fresh egg sales. So, in the days preceding the holiday, Dad would slaughter and prepare the most wonderfully dressed turkeys. They’d been fed and pampered throughout their lives and were magnificent birds.
I marvel, these days, at how wholesome that era of my life was. I knew at the time those chicks were purchased that they’d eventually become the special-ness of Thanksgiving. I played with them and coddled them; but always understood their purpose and didn’t hesitate to be a help to Dad on the day they met the end of life. From year to year I think there were even some who were so well-liked we gave them names.
That yearly Thanksgiving dinner, always served relatively early in the afternoon, always consisted of deliciously roasted turkey, homemade stuffing, creamy gravy, freshly mashed potatoes, mashed rutabagas (turnips), creamed pearl onions, jellied cranberry sauce, home-baked dinner rolls, a relish tray and fruit salad. For dessert there was always Mom’s homemade pumpkin, mincemeat and apple pies. Oh, the aromas emanating from that house when we returned, chilly, but not cold, and happy or a little disappointed, at the end of the yearly football rivalry.
One of my favorite recollections about the whole celebration of Thanksgiving was the wonder of LEFTOVERS. Yes, I’ve always been more enthralled with the leftovers than the freshly made feast. Because we dined relatively early in the day, there was lots of time to enjoy one, or maybe even a second meal of turkey sandwiches. Those fabulous sandwiches were de rigueur for several days, excluding the next day, Friday (no meat that day!). I could hardly wait for Saturday and usually made myself a turkey sandwich for breakfast!
I was married for 32 years and prepared Thanksgiving dinner every single one of those 32 years. There are so many memories of those years; but that’s for another story.
This year I’m with Lacy and Eleanor in our new lifestyle, motor home living, in our temporary yard at Rainbow’s End in Livingston, Texas. Yes, I will miss my family and all the tried and true traditions of this special time of the year. However, I give thanks for all the blessings in my life and for all the memories I share with my family and friends.
I want to wish you all a wonderful holiday and hope the blessings of this day remain with you throughout the coming year. My thanks and prayers to my brother, Jim and my family, my children: Jeff, Kari and Spencer, their families, my grandchildren: Quinn, Addison, Holland, Avery, Tate, Spencer, Malia and Samantha. And I wish happiness to Rachelle in France.
Happy Thanksgiving America!