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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving Reminiscences

My father is an only child, and his father was the only married sibling in his family. So, we had very few relatives on his side. It made it easy at holidays. We got together with my mother’s family. Take a walk down memory lane as I describe what Thanksgivings were like when I was a child.

My grandparents lived in a two-story farmhouse, built by my great grandfather. It’s a frame house, painted white, and set on a foundation of large stones here and there. The open crawl space under the house is maybe a foot or so high—perfect for an adventurous child. (I only remember crawling under it once. Too many spiders!) There’s a double porch on the back side of the house and a double porch across the front. The top front porch was rickety when I was a child, so we were encouraged not to play out there. The old homestead is set on a little hill surrounded by higher hills and mountains. There’s a creek in front of the house and a root cellar built into the hill behind it. In the valley, one can spot deer, groundhogs, raccoons, and squirrels. Behind the house was a barn, used as a garage for black, vintage cars. There were several out houses . . . including an outside toilet. The others were a smoke house/wash house, a barn for cattle, a hog house, a chicken house on the hill, and a corn crib. We played in all of these except the cow barn.

My brother and I are close in age, and so are two of our cousins, who are close in age to us. The second “batch” of cousins arrived with my little sister in between them. Sometimes, we were joined by the neighbors’ grandchildren, all boys, and sometimes not. We always had an amazing time!

Thanksgivings were family gatherings. I don’t remember anything but fun and food, and food and fun. It was amazing! My aunts can cook up a storm, and we had food, food, and more food! One of my aunts would make pancakes for everyone in the morning, while the other one would fry bacon or sausage and eggs. I still remember the irony taste of everything made in those big, black skillets. For Thanksgiving dinner and all the weekend, we feasted on ham, turkey, venison, and sometimes squirrel. Jello salads abounded. My Aunt P. made “frogeye salad,” and my Aunt A. made “ambrosia.” My mother usually contributed with a lime and pineapple mixture that’s out of this world. Our great aunt brought out her homemade applesauce, cottage cheese, pickles, pickled beets, and chow-chow. Oh my! Add mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, gravy, green beans from the garden, sweet potatoes covered with marshmallows, and you have an idea of what it was like. It was all-day eating, talking, visiting, and for us kids, playing.

I left out the desserts: pies—apple, pumpkin, and venison mincemeat, cakes—my mothers Hershey swirl pound cake, a strawberry cake my Aunt P. used to make, and usually a chocolate cake with chocolate or caramel frosting.

There was always enough food to feed an army. We tried to do it justice.

Our cousins joined us on all kinds of escapades. We had freedom to run all over the hillsides. Two of us would hide from the other two, and we would all play games like touch football, softball, and board games. We’d run and play and laugh and enjoy being together. Most of our play was made-up fun. When the littler ones were born, they did the same—playing, laughing, and running around.

As we got into our teens, the boys went deer hunting with the men. Sometimes, they’d come back with a doe or two. I actually went hunting one afternoon with my aunt. It sleeted on us as we tried not to move, and the only “wild life” we saw were other hunters. I only ever went hunting one other time, one of the most memorable nights of my life. We (several families together and a few neighbors) went raccoon hunting with dogs. It was a gorgeous, clear night, and we followed the baying of the dogs. We treed a coon but never found it. I remember scrambling all over the hills and listening to the dogs, while being outside in beautiful nature, the black sky spangled with stars. It was so much fun!

My Granddad’s farmhouse had little gas heaters in each room. They didn’t smell too nice. We’d watch the blue flames dance over the front grates. The farmhouse had a hand water pump in the kitchen and a gas range. There was electricity, so we had naked bulb ceiling lights as well as a few strategically placed lamps. I remember my Granddad trying to get a picture on the television. Let’s just say it “snowed.”

We’ve slept all over that house. When you have dozens of people and only two bedrooms, you do what you can. Many times, my family shared the “front room.” I remember our cousins and us sleeping upstairs and in the bedroom on other occasions. During the day, it was all play, talking, and eating, and we loved it.

On Sunday, we went to the little church my parents were married in. It’s basically one room upstairs. I remember when I was little having Sunday school up there, with the sanctuary divided with a curtain into three classes. In other years, some of the children’s classes were held downstairs in the basement.

Our Thanksgivings were full of family, food, and outdoorsy fun. There would be prayers of thanks at every meal and much thankfulness all the time for being together.

Since those days, some have gone to be with the Lord. And some of us remain. Some have become Christians since those Thanksgivings I remember. We’ve all grown up, and even our littlest cousin is a grandpa today. I always wish we could recreate those times for our kids and grandkids . . . maybe with a little less food.

Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD;
for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever
(Psalm 106:1).

Have a Happy, Memorable Thanksgiving!


  1. Enjoy your Thanksgiving, Lou Ann! This was a great article! I could picture every bit of it!

    1. Thank you! Happy Thanksgiving to you, Carol! God bless you.


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