Leaves are a big part of my Thanksgiving memories as a kid.
As a child I loved Christmas. What kid doesn’t, right? And it wasn’t just about Santa and the gifts either. The break from school and a joyous feeling of excitement in the air left me feeling jolly. Hey, I was a kid, I didn’t have all the extra work or financial burden to carry.
Thanksgiving? Not so much.
It was a boring day when I was a kid. We would go over the hills and through the woods to stay with my grandparents during Thanksgiving holiday.
First stop, my dad’s mom. She lived alone and was as poor as a church mouse, but boy could she wrap you in the biggest bear hugs EVER! She passed away when I was eleven.
She didn’t have indoor plumbing. Not a big deal to my brothers and me. We just took it for a grandma thing. She had a pump in the kitchen that would supply sulfur water from the cistern outside. This meant too, that she had an outhouse.
Waking up at her house on Thanksgiving morning to the aromas of breakfast cooking and the fixings of a Thanksgiving meal, with the parades on her black and white television playing in the background is a sweet memory I have.
We would all pitch in raking up leaves from the many Maple trees standing in her front yard. It seemed like a forest in my child’s mind, when it was, in fact, only four big, full trees standing tall. I remember too, the smell of burning leaves as we continued to rake and jump and rake some more until the yard was mostly clear.
We left her house on Friday morning and ventured just a few miles down the road to stay with my other grandparents on their farm. I loved visiting them. They seemed rich in comparison, even though they too had an outhouse. Theirs was a double seater, evidence to me they were loaded. In retrospect who would want one with two seats? I guess they came in handy with children. Got the job done quicker. The exception for them, however, was they did have running water in their house, as opposed to the pump.
I know I sound ancient, like Little House on the Prairie, and maybe at 53 I am but I have to tell you those are good memories.
My mom and grandmother would spend the day cooking once we arrived. My grandfather worked at the tobacco warehouse all through the holidays. My dad, brothers and uncle would go hunting at some point during the day, or something that resembled hunting, for they always came home empty handed with a story to tell. The meal was eaten in the evening after my grandfather returned home from work.
My grandma was a great cook and she loved her grandkids. She made sure we each had our favorite dish at every meal she served.
I was fortunate enough to have known all four of my grandparents, and two great grandmothers. My maternal grandparents have only been gone for eight years, so I was blessed to have them with me for so many years of my life.
Those festive holiday meals around the table were about more than just food. They were about conversation, sharing, laughing and making lasting memories. They were about family and love.
As a child, those conversations often seemed long, boring and over my head. What I wouldn’t give for another family meal around my grandmothers’ tables.