Food, Family, Preparing & Gathering Memories


Coming Soon

Since I’ve been really busy these past few weeks with final reading/editing Fireweed, the sequel to Black Ribbon Affair, I’ve avoided thinking about Thanksgiving until I had to.

But major holidays like Thanksgiving don’t just happen. Unless you’re a kid and need only show up. I could name a few other types, but I’m not generally one of them. I suppose it helps that I’m the oldest child in a family of six children who also happens to be a female. I also happen to be the oldest grandchild–again I’m still a female.

I learned very early on that Thanksgiving is so much more than the day, the history, the dinner, the football games, and maybe the deer hunt–but even then, those family hunters made a male version of our traditional dinner: stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, squash, turkey, the essentials.

So I found myself expecting to do the whole dinner thing this year but for a very small group of us. Our family has grown and increased with extended families. Once the “kids” started marrying then the yearly family Thanksgiving feast started a rotation of “in-law” years and “our” years.

We love turkey

This is an “in-law” year which for “our” family means my disabled son who lives with us, my hubby, my widowed sister, me, and whatever strays might show up. Easy-peasy for me to handle with my now much smaller kitchen and dining room. I even had the menu planned (easy since we are very traditional and have specific favorites) and when I’d be doing what to get ready. (Okay, I’m a planner and proud of it.)

But then the “kids” decided to do the Turkey Run/Walk and several would be staying around. And Thanksgiving doesn’t happen unless all family members in the area get together. As quick as a blink, Thanksgiving plans got changed. One of the “kids” offered host the dinner. Again this “kid” is the oldest in the area other than my disabled son, but he’s a guy. Fortunately, he’s married to this great young woman who’s fit in to our family routine very well. She’s also very organized–always a big plus in my book.

So in a flurry of emails, a few phone calls, maybe a tweet or two though I’m not going there, Thanksgiving changed in location. And once it was all done, I thought about how, the day and the dinner was two weeks away but we are ready. We all know what we are responsible for doing to make this day happen. Then it dawned on me: this next generation of family was stepping up. Since they have children, I suspect those little ones aren’t exactly thinking of anything more than Pilgrims, turkey, lots of foods they won’t touch because they’re different but maybe someday…

Polishing help, anyone?

And that produced other thoughts. About Thanksgiving, food traditions, family, memories. I thought back to my first memories of Thanksgiving. During WWII, my mother and I lived with her parents while my father was fighting in the South Pacific. I became very close to my grandparents and as first grandchild I got to spend much uninterrupted time with them and have so many memories that some of my younger cousins never had a chance to have.

But back to Thanksgiving. One of my earliest memories of the day didn’t happen on the day, but a few days before. That’s when I learned that Thanksgiving takes planning and it’s a fair amount of work. How much I didn’t really have a clue as I was maybe 3 years old at the time.

But Gramma opened the silverware chest and removed all the ugly black forks, knives, spoons, etc. She gave some to me to carry to the kitchen table which was now covered with newspapers. Then she showed me how to polish the spoons. While we did the chore, she talked of the days when she was a young mother and my mom helped with this task. I’m quite sure I wasn’t very good that first time, but I got better. We did that before every holiday. (Guess what I’m not doing these days???) But I treasure those special times with my Gram.

Spices for our recipes

Like I said earlier, we’re a family steeped in tradition when it comes to food on holidays. My mom remembered helping making the same things when she was a girl that I remember making with her and my gramma. I learned that my mom’s grandmother lived with them when mom was a girl and was part of the dinner preparations. I had my boys working alongside my mom and gram and me. I’m sure my niece will be having her 2 beautiful kids help her with the things she’s making. And yes, once she came into the family and made a special dish her family loved, we’ve pulled that wonderful vegetable dish into our list of Thanksgiving “must haves.”

So by my count, we’ve been doing this preparation, cooking, and coming together for Thanksgiving for six generations. I suspect it goes back even further.  What a legacy, what a family–I can’t wait for the day.

So are you a Thanksgiving planner and a traditional menu kind of person?

Leaves on the ground now

Or is your family one who’s always expanding favorites for the “in-laws” menu to add to your holiday meal?

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14 Comments on “Food, Family, Preparing & Gathering Memories”

  1. virginia mccullough Says:

    Sounds like a lovely Thanksgiving in the works for your family. I enjoy doing different things for the holidays, including going out. No leftovers, but easy and no clean up either.

    One of my early Thanksgiving memories involves having a “job” polishing silver, too. My mother had silver rolled up in some kind of flannel holder, with a pocket for each piece. I think of that every now and then–I don’t believe anyone in the family owned true “silverware” ever again. I suspect no one wanted to fuss with it.

    I’m going for a quick trip to see my son and his family. We’ll have a mix of traditional and my daughter-in-law’s food from the Philippines, and it ends up being a big buffet. My son basically invites the neighborhood, so it ends up being fun over a period of a few hours.

    Thanks for triggering that silverware memory–I can almost bring up the smell of the polish!

  2. caseyclifford Says:

    Virginia,

    I’m so glad we share that silver polishing memory and like you, I don’t do such things now. I do, however, still have a set of silver which sits in the flannel wrappers you mention. I think it was from my dad’s side of the family, however.

    Your gathering sounds like fun. I was thinking we would have to do the same with our neighbors this year, but tradition won out again in many wonderful ways. 🙂

  3. Cyndie Kimball Says:

    When I was 13 we moved cross country and extended family was left behind. Probably mostly because of the wintry weather, we rarely were back at holiday times to celebrate with extended family. So some of our traditions had to change and evolve to meet the challenges of starting anew. Years later when I did my own cross country move with my own young family, I again had to forge new traditions for our major holidays. Watching my parents navigate that first move and all it entailed – from packing up the good china and caravanning to the new house miles away from the old to forging new traditions to add to our family lore – gave me the courage to do the same with my own small family.

    Little by little, the major holiday foods were replaced with the children’s favorites till we decided to share a special meal at a restaurant. For several years Jenn would fly to New York to spend time with Sarah whose school break wasn’t long enough to wend her way “home” for the holidays so we were down to three people at home. This year Jenn will fly here from DC the weekend before Thanksgiving as she must work at the NHTRC hotline through the actual holiday. So we will celebrate our thanks together long before others sit down to their meals. But even though we have not celebrated a traditional Thanksgiving for years, we still give thanks for all the blessings we have been given. And while do not bother with football (on that day or really any day!) no matter where or how we celebrate we always listen to Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant!

    Whether you celebrate with new or old traditions, may your Thanksgiving be a joyous celebration of thanks.

  4. caseyclifford Says:

    Cyndie,

    You’re observations are so true and once of the very first changes I noticed as a little girl was once my mom’s sister and brother were married and started their families, Gram didn’t do the holidays but she and Grampa did “dinner or dessert at each child’s house with their individual families–or all of us would get together at one house for dessert. Thanks for sharing and stopping by.

  5. Anne Parent Says:

    Thanksgiving is my absolutely favorite holiday. For my family, it is the kickoff to Christmas, which is traditionally German in nature. Thanksgiving is a truly American holiday and our family’s day. Unfortunately, it is also the day of choice for one of my daughters-in-law, so she and my oldest son are unable to join us. But, the rest of the family will be present and eating a traditional holiday meal with add-ins from my other daughter, the family baker. So, I look forward to a blessed a wonderful day for all I know. Hope your Thanksgiving is awesome!

  6. caseyclifford Says:

    Anne,

    So will you be making some of those incredible southern dishes? If so, what? I love your traditions also.

  7. Anne Parent Says:

    Southern dishes include a sweet potato casserole, my grandmother’s potato salad, and I’ve found a recipe for a pecan pie I’m trying this year.
    What are your favorite recipes?

  8. caseyclifford Says:

    Sorry, Anne, my first response gut cut off by my dog’s demands and my husband calling me to dinner. 🙂

    Ooh, let me know how the pie turns out. And that sweet potato casserole , do you guard that with your life? We love sweet potatoes.

    My son and I worked on a recipe a few years ago which combined elements of 4 recipes for sweet potatoes. That’s now our favorite and I’ll be bringing that along with the traditional green bean casserole which everyone says I make different than all the recipes because it tastes better. I’ve made it for 51 years and the only thing I’ve done is add a few titches of herb and spice which our family is partial to.

    Now back to editing Fireweed. I love my cover which my Alaska son helped me come up with as an idea.


  9. Thanksgiving was a bigger holiday for our family when I was growing up, but now my sisters sometimes go to their in-laws, and same with my brother, my hubby is usually hunting, and I invite any ‘strays’ to my house. Some years it’s just me and the kids here at home and besides saying a special prayer, it’s just another day.

    Christmas Eve is our big holiday family gathering and rarely is there an exception to miss that. No one gets us on Christmas Eve except us. Christmas day is another story.

    Enjoy your day not having to do it all and early Happy Thanksgiving to you!

    Love the new cover, too. 🙂

  10. Edie Ramer Says:

    I love that cover too! Your son is talented.

    I love my mom’s rice stuffing. We’re going to my SIL’s, but I will buy a smaller turkey when it’s on sale, and will make it the following week for us. With rice dressing, of course. 🙂

  11. caseyclifford Says:

    Stacey,

    Love that you pick up “strays” and that the guys often go deer hunting. Often my sons would be gone also and then I very much appreciated my sisters’ families and gathering with them and my mom.

  12. caseyclifford Says:

    Edie,

    Laura did the cover but my ideas came from my son who lives up there. It was a very serendipitous blend.

    Humm, rice stuffing. I’ve had that and loved it also. I intend to get 2 small turkeys when they go on sale because I love roasting turkey and making all the fixings but on a smaller scale. 🙂


  13. Lovely memories. And I guess that’s what holidays are all about–traditions and bringing families together.

    I find them a lot of work and disappointing for the amount of work that goes into them. My family is close by nature, so we get together often. I’m grateful every day, so I don;t need a special day to remind me. Plus, I’m vegan. I know I’m an odd duck in this way. But being an odd duck is okay by me! 😉

  14. caseyclifford Says:

    Lorna,

    We have vegetarians now with this next generation so our meal plan always makes sure we have enough of the right proteins for them. Our family is close and finds many ways to get together. However, new careers and distant jobs and deaths have put limits on this along with dwindling numbers. Thus we treasure the new ones coming up and gather to see their growth and support their new lives.

    Thanks for stopping by.


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