… and Non-Traditions, too
By Jeff Salter
This whole week at 4F1H, I’ve been wracking my brain for images which I’d consider “traditions” — for how or where I’d spent Thanksgiving. I took the sense of that topic as being primarily about the Thanksgiving MEAL… and I’m coming up rather blank.
As far as a family meal itself, a few stand out. One is a fairly early one, when I was in grade school (late 50s or early 60s) and we all went to my Grandmother Robinson’s small house in our same town of Covington LA. She’d prepared a lavish – by our standards – feast and it was one of the few times I recall eating in her actual dining space. I remember each of us was asked to say a portion of Grace, in which we mentioned something particular we were thankful for. I don’t recall what I was appreciative of, but my little sister was thankful for the cranberry sauce. Wonder why that sticks in my brain?
I married young and many of our Thanksgivings were spent elsewhere, besides our own meager digs. For example, in my 3.5 Air Force years, we were stationed in three different places. After my military hitch, we were often at my in-laws’ house in Dallas (or wherever they were at the time). In those years of having young children, whenever they were out of school, my wife usually wanted to visit her folks (and rightly so). Sometimes, of course, we visited my folks.
One year we were here, another year we were there — some years we stayed home and had relatives (occasionally friends) visiting us. So I don’t have a set of rich memories of any particular tradition.
So let me take a moment to reflect on the Thanksgivings which stand out because they were unique — rather than traditional (in the sense of nearly everybody in the family gathered around).
One was my freshman year at Mercer University (GA) — Nov. 1968. Not enough money to fly home to Louisiana, but my mom’s cousin had a son at that same school. His folks got him to invite me to ride with him to AL, where I hooked up with his folks and another set of cousins.
Another was my tour of duty overseas, at remote Thule Air Base in N.W. Greenland (within the Arctic Circle) — Nov. 1972. Don’t recall much about any particular meal, but it was my first time away from my wife and young son. I probably went to the NCO Club and saw a USO show.
One year (possibly early 80s), for reasons I can’t recall now – but possibly my wife was working retail and couldn’t get away – she and our daughter stayed home, while I took our son to AL to visit my newly-relocated mother. I recall stopping along the way (probably somewhere along I-20 in MS) at a place like Shoney’s. Dave and I ate fairly traditional Thanksgiving fare – though he was a very picky eater – but the observance (and company) was anything but traditional.
One recent year, my wife and daughter (and her kids) drove from KY to LA to visit my son and his family. My mom was not able to travel anymore and I couldn’t leave her by herself, so I stayed behind. Having checked out the arrangements in advance, I made a late morning trip to the local IGA and picked up two plate lunches — turkey, dressing, taters, and everything else you’d expect. I brought those to my Mom’s cottage and we had a nice quiet dinner together. So I can’t claim I ever COOKED a Thanksgiving Dinner, but I surely did PROVIDE one.
What about YOU? Any special Thanksgiving traditions? Any Thanksgivings which stand out in your memory because of how DIFFERENT they were?
Previous Thanksgiving columns:
This one includes links to Thanksgiving columns of 2013, 2012, and a guest Fox on that day in 2011. In particular, please check out the link to 2012’s Thanksgiving column, because I’m talking about many of the wonderful people who have contributed to my writing experience.
JLS # 256