The air was crisp and lightly tinged with the woodsy smell of a campfire. We children piled into the green VW mini-bus and settled by our favorite windows as Dad hopped into the driver’s seat. We were headed for Grandpa’s house on Thanksgiving morning.
Mother had been busy for hours—preparing a savory dressing; cleaning, seasoning, and stuffing the turkey; and carefully stitching together the flaps of the cavity with needle and thread.
She stayed behind to baste the turkey and prepare coleslaw—and maybe to enjoy a few minutes of quiet. Pies, mincemeat and pecan, and pumpkin-nut bread had been baked the day before, and her traditional cranberry salad, second only to the turkey itself, was already setting up in the refrigerator.
As the “bird” slowly roasted, a wonderful aroma began to fill the house. We knew the fragrance would be there when we returned.
The drive to Grandpa’s took us out of our neighborhood and into the countryside. We traversed narrow winding roads, hills, and valleys, passing wooded thickets and wide ribbons of fallow cornfields that stretched to the horizon.
Eventually Grandpa’s village appeared.
Just a few minutes …… and there he was, waiting for us at the old oak table in the kitchen, sipping coffee and reading. Hugs and smiles later, he quickly gathered up his warm jacket, a bag of freshly-hulled black walnuts from the yard, and the old tin he always filled with fudge from the farmers’ market. Soon we were out the door and on our way home, with him by our sides.
It was a joyful ride through the countryside. We were hungry and anticipated a delicious feast! Dad was humming the tune to “Over the River and through the Woods.”
Grandpa smiled and sat quietly. Maybe he was thinking of years gone by, when he had celebrated Thanksgiving with his parents, then later with his dear wife, our Grandmother who was no longer with us.
Surely his mind was full of happy images of the past. I wish we had asked him to describe these memories. Our questions were more current. What new projects were in process in his woodshop?
Birdhouses perhaps, or was he repairing a neighbor’s fence or building a new shed for someone? The conversation was light and the mood sweet.
The winding road though hill and dale led us home, where Mother greeted us in her fresh apron and crisp cotton dress. Lady, our little beagle, bounced around happily, especially eager to lick Grandpa’s hands.
The roasting turkey smelled wonderful as we entered the house. We girls helped to set the table with the good china and real silverware, while the men carried in kindling and logs for the hearth. Before long, Mother rang the dinner bell.
We took our places around the table, with a special spot for Grandpa, and bowed our heads to give thanks.
Then Dad began to carve the turkey, as Mother carried in steaming bowls of vegetables and casseroles of baked stuffing—always an alternative to the cooked-inside-the-turkey sort. Salads and sweet breads were already on the table.
This was a beautiful time, with six of us gathered together.
We savored the delicious meal, reported to Grandpa about what we were learning in school, told old and new stories, and laughed.
At one point our father asked us to share something that we were especially thankful for. I can’t recall the answers but am certain that this practice helped us develop a sense of gratitude. So many simple blessings!
Time has passed. Grandparents and parents are no longer with us. The family may gather on a day other than the actual date of Thanksgiving—and at a different home.
But, I still wear a favorite apron and prepare my mother’s delicious cranberry salad, bake a Thanksgiving pie or two, and set the table with pretty napkins and candles, just as she did.
And, whenever I find myself driving on a crisp November day down a lane in the country, I can hear my father singing; “Over the river and through the woods, to Grandfather’s house we go.”
Here find my mother’s Thanksgiving Cranberry Salad recipe:
What you need:
12 oz fresh cranberries (4 cups)
1 orange, peeled and sectioned
2 small packs raspberry Jello (or strawberry)
2 c. boiling water
1 c. crushed pineapple, drained
2 ribs celery, finally chopped, (1 c.)
1 c. finely chopped walnuts or pecans
½ tsp salt
2 c. sugar and 1 c. tap water
Let’s make it!
- Process cranberries with orange until finely chopped.
- In bowl combine boiling water, Jello, and cranberry-orange mixture.
- Cool 20 min.
- Stir in drained pineapple, celery, nuts, and salt.
- In small pan combine sugar with 1 c water. Bring to boil. Cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Cool 10 min. and stir into Jello mixture.
- Pour into serving bowl and refrigerate overnight.
Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!
Vintage postcard image courtesy of Old Design Shop