The Thanksgiving Table

I am not sure how we survived. Thanksgiving was a production to say the least when I was in Elementary School back in North Prairie Wisconsin. It was customary for us to gather at our house for the holidays. It was a time of feasting, and noshing.

Having been to various family members’ homes over the years, the traditions have not lessened. The main table ladened with every kind of dish imaginable. Turkey to cranberry sauce, we had it all. Getting to the table was an adventure.

On the quieter holiday years it would be my sisters, mom, dad, my grandparents and me. Other times we would have to rent out a larger venue, especially when the Reese Clan got together.

Each member of the family pitched in cooking, or doing something. My job was often to wash the dishes. I would stand there at the sink for what seemed like hours washing each new utensil or pot put in the water. Sisters would have to dry the dishes and put them away. In later years, I was mom’s gopher (go get this spice from the store, I need half and half). Most of thanks giving was work it seemed to me as a kid.

I did not question that I would have to work on these holidays. It was built right into my being that I was to help. I would have rathered gone out and played, but I was told what I was to do, and I did it. I was not a fan of doing dishes, and even today find it an onerous task to complete. Paper plates are our friends.

I imagine that our offerings for food were the typical fare for most Americans. Turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, carrots, peas, corn on cob, bread, cranberry sauce, apple pie and jello. What we would call here in SC as meal and four plus.

The table in the parsonage was a large oval with ornate wooden chairs surrounding it. Parents took seat at the ends and kids and grandparents took up the sides. Candles stood tall dividing the table down the center. Blue Currier and Ives dishes were placed in every place. We kids would set the table just so, and wait for the food.

There was no taking a plate to your room, or the living room. Everyone sat in their place and ate together. We asked permission to come and go from the table. Everyone joined hands and Dad blessed the food.

One year when I was pretty young, and dumb, I was playing with the napkins near the lit candles. I remember holding it over the flame, but not in the flame. I was at the table with adults, so if they warned me, I did not hear them. You guessed it, the paper napkin burst into flames. I flung it away from the table and it was stomped out by one of the adults at the table. Scared me to death, and I never did that again (at least not that exact experiment).

Those days were comfortable and part of the fabric of my life. Year later I had cause to be at a homeless shelter during Thanksgiving, and the foods were almost identical, but the feeling of what made the holiday special was gone. It was a line up for food and balancing the plate on your lap while watching the game.

My girls have to have their cellphones attached to theirhips and checking every 2 minutes to see who ate what and what did it looklike. How do I explain what that was like, to a generation that have neverexperienced it? I try and remember that in 25 years, our current Thanksgivingswill be quaint, and the grandchildren will be giving these same deep thoughtsto their parents. Evolution happens to all of us. The Thanksgiving Table is inmy memory and a thing of the past.

Time to fill my plate with 6000 + calories and watch the Packers play. I bet I am asleep by halftime with my youngest curled up in my lap asleep also. I am Thankful, truly Thankful.

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