Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving 60 years ago

The day started with a breakfast of homemade breakfast cake and milk (or coffee if one was old enough).  Then our family all dressed up in our best church clothes and went to Thanksgiving service at church. 

After service we went home and entered the house by the kitchen door to an aroma -- oh, my -- so wonderful that our mouths watered before we even got a taste of the dinner we had waited for since the year before.

Thanksgiving dinner was the best meal of the whole year.  A lot of people in the church gave us groceries that we only got one time of the year and those groceries included lots and lots of olives -- green and brown -- a large metal container of olive oil, and cans of sweet potatoes, corn, green beans and yes, even Spam.  We ate it all, not at our Thanksgiving meal of course but before Christmas, let me tell you.

Mom was a very good budgeter of our food stocks which were sometime a little lean, but she made do, and we never knew we were almost out of food.

Around 1:00 p.m. some of the family members who would share this feast prepared by my mom and her sister began to arrive.  We welcomed them all.  Aunt Annie.  Uncle Joe.  Cousin Bette.  Cousin Esther.  Cousin David.  Uncle Joe and Aunt Rita, Cousins Joan and Robert.  And sometimes we would even be surprised by a visit from our Tennessee relatives, Aunt Francis, Uncle Howard, Cousins Betty and Dan.  Some of the family came after their first dinner to have their second dinner of leftovers.

The leftovers were just that.  Whatever was left over from the dinner was set out on the dining room table along with bread and sliced cheese and people could munch when they got hungry or not munch at all.

It was a noisy crowd and we laughed until our sides hurt hearing some of the tales my mom and dad and other family members  told of their growing up and schooling.

I guess the most memorable event at every Thanksgiving was dad's grace at the beginning of the meal.  He knew how hungry we all were -- chomping at the bit sort of -- and he started his prayer by reciting a Psalm -- one of the longer Psalms, then because I was peaking I noticed he looked around and if most of the eyes were shut we would go on thanking the Lord for everything he could think of.  And I have to save he was very sincere with this prayer.  Well, after what seemed like an hour-long prayer some of us started giggling -- I think Aunt Annie got us going and we could not stop until we heard a rather loud AMEN meaning "dive in folks, it's finally time to eat."

After dinner we played board games.

I remember plucking at the purple grapes.  We rarely got grapes and I was piking them and mom told me it was rude to pick at the grapes and she cut off a small stem of grapes for me and when that stem ran out of grapes she cut me another stem.

It's funny you know what you remember.  Imagine loving grapes at Thanksgiving and doing with out them the rest of the year and then being so thankful for them again the next Thanksgiving.  Mom also always had a mixed nut tray with a nut cracker and the adults seemed to enjoy the exotic nuts she had rounded up along with Aunt Annie.

So I say to all my family who never knew this joy of Thanksgiving be Thankful in everything for God has given you what you need, which is maybe more than you want.

NOTE:  I mentioned the can of olive oil because EVOO was expensive and mom rationed that can to last six months.  Remember she was an Italian cook and EVOO was a staple for her cooking.