Gray day; bright Thanksgiving memories…

It’s that gray, rainy morning I’ve been waiting for here in northern Illinois! 

To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with those bright and sunny days that have greeted us every morning, but one such as this is perfect to finally attend to all of the writing projects I’ve managed to procrastinate around for way too long. I’m really not sure why this sort of day has always prodded me to get the writing going—and sometimes finished—but I’m thinking it may be nothing more than a psychological “trigger” telling me that it doesn’t get any better than this, so sit down, fire up that computer, and quit putting things off!

Whatever any of this means, who really knows? I only know that I always seem to be in a better “writing” frame of mind when there’s an aura of dreariness about. Not to come off as a Poe type, but I do love days that are full of rain or snow or wind that provide an overall sense of grayness. That’s exactly how it is this morning, less than two weeks away from my favorite holiday: Thanksgiving. Understand, I don’t need the gray atmosphere to write about this holiday’s moments that shine brightly in my memory bank. And as the stiff wind swirls the rain all about and against the windows, my mind harkens back to my family’s many Thanksgivings at my grandparents so many years ago.

For as long as I can remember, Thanksgiving, and the days leading up to it, have always created within me a special feeling of joy and anticipation. Not anticipation for all of the delicious food we would enjoy, but the eagerness to be with cousins for the first time since the previous gathering. Those few days spent together provided us a time of fun and a hiatus from our everyday routines of school and life in general. 

Because we lived a few states away from the grandparents, we always had a pretty long drive to get there. Even then, I never balked at a road trip that would involve many miles of familiar places along the way. Most of the time, we left after dad was finished with work on Wednesday, and we’d arrive late that night. My cousins would usually be there ahead of us, so it was always a festive and raucous occasion when we were all finally under roof at my grandparents the night before Turkey Day.

Thanksgiving Day usually began pretty early, despite our lack of sleep after our late night. A quick breakfast, and then our day began! Epic backyard football battles that wore on for hours never failed to get our spirits up—as well as our appetites! I never fail to smile when I recall those wonderful long ago Thanksgiving  mornings.

Of course, after we’d cleaned up and changed clothes from the morning gridiron action, the afternoon featured the main attraction: A dinner which was nothing less than spectacular! 

After all, who could cook or bake any better than Grandma? Sure, she had lots of help from our moms, but it all was her deal! Turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, rolls that would melt in your mouth, squash, beans, etc., etc., and pies of pecan and pumpkin and mince meat were of what dreams were made. As my uncle always said afterwards: “If you came away hungry, it was your own fault!”

When the annual Thanksgiving repast had finished, there would be football on TV and an inevitable card game (usually Hearts) with Grandpa. Our dads always managed to find convenient out-of-the way chairs or couches on which to snooze, and our moms cleaned up the dishes and put the food in the fridge. Ah, the glorious leftovers! 

Then, they and Grandma would retreat to the dining room table that had quickly been transformed back to its normal state and chat about whatever moms and grandmas liked to talk about. Usually, as I recall, there was lots and lots of reminiscing and laughter of bygone people and places. I always learned a lot about my family from listening to some of this “table talk,” and even the repetition of some of the stories I’d heard many times through the years, were still fun to hear all over again. Somehow, it seemed a ritual that was just expected to happen.

And so, Thanksgiving afternoon wore on, and nightfall came early, as it always does in late November. The leftovers were pulled out, and the turkey sandwiches were the perfect capper of the annual Thanksgiving gathering. And even though we were tired, we never wanted to “give up the ghost” and call it quits.

But the day’s excitement and fun was all but over. I was always filled with a sort of melancholy at this point, knowing that we’d be up early the next morning and wending our way back to Indiana and back to that routine we’d blessedly been allowed to escape —if only for a few wonderful days. 

I could go on about other “moments” from other years surrounding this special holiday, but I’ll just say that as I’ve grown older and married and had my own children, through the years we’ve tried to invoke the same kind of Thanksgiving magic that we enjoyed so much as kids. Family gatherings at our own house were a staple for many, many Thanksgivings. And though I would have loved for everything to continue, it’s so true that “All good things must end.” A few years back, that’s exactly what happened. There is no blame to be dished out, other than the reality of kids growing up, leaving the nest, and starting families and their own traditions. Even so, as my own childhood memories of Thanksgivings at Grandma and Grandpa’s long ago were special, our own Thanksgiving memories are forever there!

I hope you have fond memories of bygone Thanksgivings, and may you make many more!

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