Thankful anyway…memories of a non-Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving

1997. It was a Thanksgiving for firsts in our family. My grandfather had died that past February, so it was our first Thanksgiving without him. Every year, he’d roasted the turkey while my grandmother made the dressing. He’d make my giant chocolate chip cookie on a pizza pan for my Thanksgiving weekend birthday. But now, he was gone. Somehow, my grandmother, who’d never learned to drive and had given up making breakfast when she’d been pregnant with my aunt and never picked it back up again, survived. She wanted us all to come to her house for Thanksgiving, so we did. She’d make the turkey, dressing, green beans and potatoes by herself, then join us at my other grandmothers for lunch, then we’d head to her house for supper.

It was also my first Thanksgiving being pregnant. My first time being pregnant at all. I was already past the first trimester and while I’d been assured that once that second trimester hit and the placenta was fully in place I’d feel better, well, I didn’t. Daily, from week 6 until week 20, without fail, at least once a day, but often more than that, the sight, smell, or thought of food or anything else my body suddenly found offensive, like my face soap, would send my racing to the bathroom to, as my friend would say, bow to the porcelain goddess of pregnancy. It was awful. I was still way far from 20 weeks, but still lots of odors and sights were more than I could bear. Raw meat and deli meat especially did a number on my poor digestive system. Not just seeing, but sometimes even thinking about them.

I’d quit buying deli meat for my poor, hungry husband, after an eventful trip to the store. I’d asked the sympathetic lady at the deli counter to fill my order, then sped away to calm my stomach and finish my stopping. I think she even put it in my buggy, hidden in the back so I wouldn’t have to see it while I went to the check out lane. Somehow, I made it through check out, and to the car. I was so proud of myself! I thought I’d turned a corner. Nope. Before I could get half way home on my 1/2 mile drive, my triumphant thoughts became panicked ones as I suddenly realized the deli turkey was IN THE CAR with me, and I was NOT going to make it home to my vintage 60’s green toilet before the inevitable occurred. Sigh. I made it to the driveway. But at least it was my driveway. My poor husband had to come home and ummm, hose off the driveway in the hot September heat. Now that’s love.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving. First meal, the turkey was done when I got there and I didn’t have to see it raw. I think I only got sick once before the meal, then managed to eat some turkey and take a nap. Time for meal two. My poor sweet Granny, trying so hard, but still in a tizzy and emotional turmoil of the first big holiday without her spouse, forgot to put the turkey back in the fridge that morning after it had cooled. You’ve watched enough pre-Thanksgiving cooking shows to know, the golden turkey, sadly gave up it’s life for nothing and we didn’t eat it. My dad scoured the little town for any type of turkey for our dinner. Nothing. Ingles was out and everything else–there wasn’t much–was closed. Imagine my surprise when I sat down at the table and my father brought in the platter. The big white turkey platter from Old Time Pottery –the one that had been my grandfather’s pride and joy–had been sanitized from the old, bacteria filled turkey, and the new, sliced deli meat turkey, all cold and clammy and shiny took it’s place in the place of honor on the table–much to my horror, right in front of me.

You can guess how the next five minutes turned out. When I returned from the bathroom, as clammy as the turkey, the platter was at the other end of the table and someone had tactfully covered it with a paper towel. Really, the rest of the meal is a haze in my mind, but then, much of that time in my nauseated life was, and remains a hazy memory.

Somehow, despite the drama it was still a thankful, though bittersweet day. I was the first grandchild on either side of my family, and I was pregnant with the first great-grandchild. Fifteen years later, my second to youngest cousin and his wife are expecting what will be the ninth great-grand, and my sister and her husband are near the top on the waiting list to be matched with a darling Ethiopian boy who will be the tenth great-grandchild! My grandfather was spending Thanksgiving in heaven that year, and while it was sad he wasn’t there, we were thankful the strokes that took his life were in quick succession and he didn’t suffer a long, drawn out illness.  Now when we sit down to Thanksgiving at my parents’, my 90 year-old grandmother smiles, and over the chaos of her eight happy, boisterous great-grands, says she knows how much fun my grandfather Haze would have had with all these kids.

Blessings on you and your family as you give thanks on Thursday!



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