It goes without saying everyone wants to be home on Thanksgiving Day. Each family has its own particular traditions. My grandmother, Mrs. H.F. Whitehead, who resided on Mound Street in Harlan, fixed a dinner fit for a king and tried to bring to the table something special for each person, such as scalloped oysters for my father. That always struck me as being peculiar on Thanksgiving, a day traditionally associated with turkey and dressing. Speaking of turkeys, all those many years ago, housewives could not purchase at their grocery stores a fully dressed turkey. They bought one on foot, kept it under a washtub in the yard with its legs tied together until time to wring its neck, dip it in scalding water, pluck its feathers, then dress it from scratch by hand.
Which brings to mind, everything on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table back then had to be prepared from scratch. Stovetop stuffing, instant potatoes and canned yams just weren’t available. At Mama Whitehead’s house, even caramel ice cream for dessert was made in a hand-cranked freezer filled with ice and rock salt. It was great fun for the children to take a turn cranking the freezer. While dinner was being prepared, aromas filled the house with the delicious smells of turkey roasting in the oven, homemade yeast rolls, candied yams, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, pumpkin pie and angel food cake. In addition, on the table was a cut-glass relish dish filled with celery, carrots, olives and assorted pickles. My sister, Mary Esther (Datter), never ate celery for Thanksgiving because it crunched and made a noise while it was being eaten, which she was afraid would upset our stern grandfather. Mama Whitehead wore a path between the kitchen and dining room as she kept bringing dish after dish of home cooked food to the table. In addition, she picked for herself pieces of turkey which were the least favorite of the family and insisted they, the giblets, were what she actually preferred. I always wondered if that were really true or a sacrifice on her part.
As I ponder the sweetness of those bygone memories, I am also reminded of the many blessings for which I am thankful today: my church, a caring community, friends past and present and fairly good health. And finally, my fondest wish and sincere prayer is that each of you will be surrounded by a devoted family and loving friends on Thanksgiving Day. For indeed, all of us have much for which to be thankful.