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Thanksgiving dinner will be similar; the day after much different

A gray November day ends with a soft crimson sunset that seems to have been painted by a gentle and shy artist.

On its best behavior, November hints that winter will pass without trial. At worst, November erupts in gale-force fury.

The month begins with remembrances of loved ones lost and ends with thanks-giving for those things and people who remain at table.

The artist's brush was dry when Kathy called her sister to discuss who was bringing what to their parents' house. Kathy would make the pies as she always does; Mary, the salad; Rachel, the rolls; and Sarah, a relish tray.

The conversation wasn't without debate. Some in the family think that the time has come to reduce the stress on Grandpa and Grandma by buying the complete meal — with a few exceptions — from a grocery store. The no-muss, no-fuss approach would be much easier on them. Grandpa, who likes to cook, was insulted by the notion. While it's certain that no store could produce a feast to match, he was upset because people thought he might have become too frail to handle the responsibility.


There wouldn't, it seems, be much to celebrate if they admitted that they could no longer do what they had always done. It would amount to nothing less than an admission that old age and its challenges had become too much and that the inevitability of the inevitable had come.

We will gather and eat as always, with renewed appreciation that the people who sometimes are taken for granted ought not be.

Mother's time to be Thanksgiving host is gone.

The house, two bedrooms too small for a large family, was filled from living room to basement with grown children, grandkids and invited guests. Her youngest son, who should have been a boy to better help mother in old age, was pulled from normal chores to prepare the house for visitors.

Preparation involved rolling up the braided rugs made from remnants and carrying them outside to the line. A wire paddle with a wooden handle was used to beat the rugs senseless while the cold November wind carried the dust away. Desk tops, shelves and furniture were dusted. Mother hated dust, most likely because during the Great Depression's drought, fine dust blew through the house and settled on her finest things.

Initial inspection of the rugs found faults, and the entire process was repeated.

All these things were done well before the day itself. One Thanksgiving, when snow was already on the ground, mother decided to buy a live bird. It was a huge beast, the biggest in the flock and one that, when dressed, seemed unlikely to fit in the wood-fueled oven.

Thanksgiving morning was a frenzied blur. Potatoes, onions and squash were brought from the basement where natural cold kept them in good condition into spring. Peeling potatoes, whether in KP duty in the Army or in the kitchen sink, is dull work and especially so when they seem countless. The bird, stuffed with sage-scented dressing, celery and raisins, went into the oven shortly after the last of a half-dozen pies were finished.


The dining room table, covered in a spotless white cloth reserved for the highest holidays, was carefully set with utensils, cups and napkins in their proper positions. The big dining room table was reserved for the older crowd and guests.

The rest were seated at the folding aluminum card table mother had received by redeeming Green Stamps offered by Piggly Wiggly. Those of us who ate there thought it would be a marvelous thing when we were old enough to dine at the head table, where grownups talked about the harvest, politics and how crazy Nikita Khrushchev seemed.

I never reached the head table.

Mother would be stunned to learn that after dinner, her ancestors will map their strategy for Black Friday shopping. They plan to wake at 3:30 a.m. in order to get the best deals.

For myself, I'll stay in bed if for no other reason than it seemed that most mornings on the farm we received an awful early wake-up call because holiday or not, the cows still needed to be milked.

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