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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Memories of Thanksgiving past

It's November. It's a time for thanks, preparing for the winter months, changing of sports and shorter than short days. And it's almost time for Christmas - I'll save that for another blog.

November reminds me of the days when I was young, raking a mountain of leaves from underneath the outstretched arms of the large maple tree on our front yard only to send them scattering again with one large leap. We would rake and jump, rake and jump, rake and jump until the leaves were crushed into little pieces and could be found in every pocket space of clothing I had.

It also reminds me of our dysfunctional trips to the great white north where my grandparents lived to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday. We lived in Lewiston, they in Linneus. It was a 3 1/2 - 4 hour drive and trust me, my father could make it less than 3 hours if us girls could hold off going potty, mom packed enough food, the weather was clear enough and he didn't get stopped by the State Police. We were like a low-flying jet in that old blue Chevy station wagon with all the luggage strapped on the top and us kids laying down in the back covered by a blanket. It's a wonder we never got killed. "She's looking at me" "I have to go to the bathroom" "I'm hungry" "Could you please slow down?" "Palsy just got sick" - oh yeah, we used to take our dog Pal with us too. He would hover on the floorboards the entire way, borderline loosing faculties in one way, shape or form.

We would arrive in a grand entrance skidding sideways spraying gravel from the driveway with my parents about to throttle each other and bail out of the car, stretching our muscles tightened into piano strings from the ride. Grammie would usher us in to a multitude of pies and cookies - we all had our favorites set aside for us. The Marlboro Menthol and Camel Filterless smoke would be heavy in the air, along with the stench of coffee that could probably burn a hole to the center of the earth. A chorus of "I'm bored" would immediately set in from us girls, usually followed by a "can you shut them kids up? I'm trying to watch tv!" from our grandfather.

Thanksgiving day would come and find all of us crammed around a makeshift table to a spread of turkey, stuffing, home made rolls, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, carrots - pretty much the entire supermarket. I'm not sure how she ever could afford to get all that food (or how she cooked it all on that tiny little stove), but there was always plenty. We would eat until ready to burst at the seams, then Uncle Pete would pass out on the couch and snore while us kids would play according to the weather and my mom and dad would go hunting out back. Mom would not only hunt for deer, but for a Christmas tree as well. (One year, she actually shot the top of a fifty-footer to drag home. Seriously.) Anyone left hanging around was helping to clean up after dinner, except for Grampie. He was exempt from anything he didn't want to do.

As far as us cousins were concerned, Linda and Pete would typically argue about anything, Pete would typically cheat at some game, Michele would want to paint her nails and Stevie, Kevie and I would want to play on the organ. The organ. I'm surprised grampie didn't smash that thing into a gazillion pieces at some point, but then again he would use it as his excuse to high-tail it outta there with his buds when he was younger. Maybe that was the ploy.

The Saturday afer Thanksgiving was spent with a Baked Bean supper, complete with grammie's homemade rolls and potato salad (one with and one without onions, she was so good to us!) and whatever turkey day leftovers she could muster into bean-supperable. We would leave first thing (sort of) Sunday morning to start the trek home. We were usually in such a hurry to get out of the sticks that something was usually left behind. One time, we actually left Palsy at grammie's house - thank goodness we weren't in Bangor when we realized that!

Another 3 hour whilrwhild trip home would always have some interesting story behind it. One year, with dad following other fathers with loaded cars in a big hurry to get home, we pulled into the right lane of the southbound turnpike just in time to watch a little old man headed northbound. We all looked at each other in awe. People, we were probably doing 80+, can you imagine the head on collision that would have made? A few times my father was the recipient of a speeding ticket, which in turn taught me a few of my favorite swear words. Somehow, we always made it home safe and sound - but let me tell you, we probably wouldn't talk to each other for at least a week after getting home.

My turkey days now are spent much quieter, family is split up everywhere and life is complicated. I miss those crazy famliy meals with everyone talking and reaching across the table - my day now is spent alone, while my son is with his father's family. Am I sad? A little - but he's experiencing a family tradition that I can't give him from my side. Our Thanksgiving will be held on Saturday with my mom and my niece. We will have a chicken (I don't like turkey), mashed potatoes, squash, peas - enough to stuff a small gathering. We'll eat pumpkin pie until it comes out of our ears, but the most important thing is that we will be together. I think we could have turkey sandwiches and not care, as long as we're together.

Again - Christmas is a different thing, I'll get to that later.

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