Now most of the gathering takes place in crowded grocery stores as carts are filled and wallets emptied. Pumpkin pies come in the freezer case. Turkeys are in hygienic bags that don’t even have to be opened before you put them in the oven. But the sentiment is the same. We’re gathering together our harvest.
The news lately is full of travel tips for the thousands upon thousands of folks who will be traveling to be with their families this holiday season. They are loading up kids, luggage, even pets for the yearly pilgrimage of the heart. Travelers cross the nation, through time zones and across mountain ranges to rejoin their loved ones for the holidays. In this modern time, advances in transportation have made it easier to move from one place to the other. It’s easier to go to the store. Easier to get to work. But it is also easier to move far away from your family.
In some cases, I realize this might not be a bad thing. But even for people who aren’t close to their families, this seems to be a season for reunion. Even with the long hours of stand-by waits that are spawned by bad weather, travelers I saw interviewed on the news maintained that glimmer of anticipation. I think many of us get excited about Thanksgiving. It’s the one day a year that most people say “forget the diet” and happily pounce on the feast set before them. I am infinitely thankful for the bounty that we have been given. I’m thankful for living in this country where most of us have enough to eat. I’m thankful for our family that stands behind me no matter what. I’m thankful for the good friends that help keep me sane and on track. I’m thankful for the freedom to express myself and worship God as I see fit. And I’m thankful for Thanksgiving memories.
Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. Honestly, as a child, any holiday that offered escape from school was my favorite. Thanksgiving always meant cooking. The house filled early with the smell of turkey. Mama got up in the dark hours of the morning to put it on low. By about 10, the aroma of cornbread dressing would join in, making stomachs growl all over the house. Pies were made, mostly butternut squash. We had a hard time growing any pumpkins, but butternut squash tasted almost the same, and was easy to cultivate in our wet clay soil. The older kids always helped in the kitchen. Even though Thanksgiving was just one meal, it took three times as long to prepare.
Bill and I got out from under foot and watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Endless marching bands blared out overlapping marches; rolling floats showed Santa and the North Pole — one even had an actual skate rink covered with little kids in flippy skirts ice-skating. Our favorites were the giant balloons. They were as big as a house and had to be dragged along by choreographed teams of handlers. The first ones I remember were Snoopy and Charlie Brown. They were big deals when I was a little kid. Then came Big Bird and the rest of the Sesame Street characters. Now, it’s probably Shrek and the cast of “Housewives of New Jersey.” But marching bands never go out of style.
It seemed like that parade went on for three days. But by the time we got quarrelsome and tired of watching, the feast was ready to eat.
We had some rotating menu items. Sometimes cranberry congealed salad, sometimes blueberry, but some dishes were a constant — always Turkey. Once one of my friends had ham for Thanksgiving, and I thought that was the weirdest thing I’d ever heard. We always had cornbread dressing, in a heavy aluminum sheet pan, rich with sage. We used Grandma Garrett’s recipe, and it was good every time. We always had canned cranberry sauce. I liked it when you could still see the can marks on the roll. And we always had Waldorf salad with crisp apples and nuts – the fruits of fall.
But all parades and feasts aside, my favorite part of the season has always been the song. “Come ye thankful people come, raise the song of harvest home. All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin. God our maker doth provide all our wants to be supplied. Come ye thankful people come, raise the song of harvest home.”
So, as we all gather our harvest together for this special day, I am thankful indeed.
Gentry, a Carroll County resident, writes a weekly column for the Times-Georgian.