I guess every family has some sort of Thanksgiving tradition even if it is the tradition of refusal to have Thanksgiving. When Shirley and I were first married my family did not have any real tradition at that time, but her family tradition was to gather at her maternal grandparents home and have a feast. Different members of the family were assigned or volunteered for certain food items to bring. The extended family would travel from Maryland, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida, or wherever work had transferred them to that particular year. It was a feast and a reunion. After gorging ourselves with all that delicious food we would sit and talk over the noise of the ball game, catch up on everyones lives. It was a wonderful time.
After Shirley’s grandmother (Mattie McGehee) passed away the mantle passed for a couple of years to Shirley’s aunt Lena. When she decided not to go through the big time work of preparing and hosting the Thanksgiving meal, Shirley’s mother (Margie Bruce) took over the reigns. After several years Shirley’s mother was not able to continue and Shirley took over.
We tried different things in different years. My dad remarried after my mother’s death and his new wife’s family tradition was to go to an old restaurant in Sophia. It was one of those one big room restaurants that Richard Petty use to frequent. That lasted one year and the place closed. (Don’t think we had anything to do with that?). I must admit after this it was with a much smaller crowd; more people in the family were sick, old, had died, or lived in Texas and around Memphis. Then we started going to the beach over the Thanksgiving holiday. There were many changes in how we did that. Some times (once I think) Shirley and Joy (our daughter-in-law) cooked in the condo. Other times we ordered pre-cooked meals from K & W at North Myrtle Beach. One time we did eat Thanksgiving dinner at the K & W at North Myrtle Beach… and ran into a former preacher’s wife doing the same thing.
I remember what was said by Shirley and some others when we first made the move away from cooking and gathering in our homes: “It just doesn’t seem like Thanksgiving.” It was as if we were letting down the family that had held this tradition sacred for all these years.
I remember one Thanksgiving when we lived on S. McCrary St. in Asheboro. I always thought Shirley put in too much time and energy for a twenty minute meal. I was an advocate of ordering the bird and fixin’s from places who excelled at that sort of thing. Shirley thought that was an outrage… everything is better homemade. I agree, but I wanted to save her time.
This particular year Duke was playing some other basketball team at Cameron Indoor on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. Shirley’s mother and I agreed to cook and peal the potatoes for the potato salad, and the sweet potatoes for the sweet potato casserole (a real dessert). We talked her into it and she and our son Stephen headed for Durham.
Margie and I got busy with the task at hand… boiling the potatoes in water. I am not sure what happened that night but I believe it was some kind of “My Cousin Vinny” deal where something cooks quicker on our stove than it does on the stoves of the whole potato eating world. We were diligent. We were vigilant. Even so… all of a sudden the potatoes… both pots… at very same time burned. Big black stinking places were all over both the sweet and regular potatoes. We didn’t have any more potatoes, and I didn’t think about going to get more until right now as I am writing this. We sat there and pealed all the black off the potatoes… way down into the potatoes, diced them and got them ready for the potato salad to be prepared. We threw away all the left over evidence, aired out the house, and waited to see if Shirley would notice when she came home.
Well, nothing was said that night. Perhaps we had made it through. The next day during the meal someone said: “This potato salad tastes a little different this year. Did you change the recipe?” I looked and Margie and she looked at me… and we both busted out giggling “What do you mean it tastes different?” No one could quite tell what the new ingredient was. Margie and I finally had to tell them that the new ingredient was called “BURNT!” We all had a good laugh as we shared the story. I don’t understand why Margie nor I were ever asked to help with the potatoes ever again???
Traditions were just the way we did things and not the why. After all these years and with all the changes that have taken place in our families and traditions, I am not so sure that where we celebrated and who fixed the food really mattered all that much. What really mattered was that we celebrated thankfulness. We thanked God for all the blessing of this life He had given us, for His constant providential care, His grace that covered us from
birth to death and beyond, His love that caused Him to walk with us in every step of our
earthly journey, and most of all His grace that made a way for us to be restored to the Father’s house in heaven. We also thanked God for each other and the relationships we hold dear. Every time we gathered around that table we gave thanks. It kinda reminded us of another table around which we gather to receive the elements of our Lord. It too is called Thanksgiving.
Dear Lord, thank you for the traditions of Thanksgiving and all that people have done to prepare their best for that day. But more than that, Lord thank you for the why of Thanksgiving and all that you have done that warrants our heartfelt thankfulness presented through our daily living all year round. In and through Jesus help us to live thankful lives. Amen.