Thanksgiving for our family, as for many, has always meant gratitude and family — gratitude that we lived in a free country, blessed by God’s bounty, and coming together with one of those blessings, our loving family.
As mother in the family, it was my job to rise early, prepare the turkey stuffing (from the bread I had set out the night before so it would be stale and dry) and then put the turkey in the oven to bake slowly for hours and hours while we went to church. The pumpkin pies had been made the day before, and sometimes a helpful sister-in-law would bring a pie. This was before the advent of refrigerated Cool Whip, so whipped cream had to be whipped by hand until it was just the right consistency.
Next, wake the children and together, with my husband, we shepherd them to church. Of course, my daughters and I wore hats and gloves, and the males wore suits and ties. No more patent leather shoes for the girls at that time of the year. Patent leather was for summer only and, of course, we wore no more “white” clothing after Labor Day. “Come Ye Thankful People Come” and “God Bless America” were always sung in church with great gusto. We were Americans, we were blessed and we were truly thankful.
Later, many relatives gathered at our house for the Thanksgiving feast. My husband and I had the most children (three), so it was just natural that our house would be the gathering place. Spinster aunts, loving uncles and sometimes a surviving grandparent arrived, also wearing their Sunday finery. Electric mixers weren’t common yet, so I mashed the potatoes by hand while my husband carved the turkey without the aid of an electric knife.
Of course, table prayers were said, and what had taken hours and hours to prepare was eaten in less than a half-hour. The pumpkin pies disappeared into sated stomachs, and then what was common all over America occurred: The women did the dishes (without a dishwasher, of course), and the men sat around and talked or had a cigar while the young boys went out to play.
Many of the males nodded off, chin on chest, as they digested the plenty from the table. Our photo album was full of men sitting upright on the sofa, fast asleep after the Thanksgiving feast. Television wasn’t common yet either, so there were no NFL games for them to watch — just women gabbing in the kitchen as they cleaned up and men relaxing in the front room.
Dishwashers, television, electric mixers, instant potatoes and gravy have changed that holiday immensely — but no matter what, it will always remain a day of gratitude and family.