Thanksgiving may very well be my favorite holiday.
My earliest Thanksgiving memories go back probably to being around five or so. I lived in New Jersey, which meant all our television stations came out of New York City. We only had off-air television back “in those days.” Remember that?
My mom would be working in the kitchen early on. We always ate around 1 pm, so that bird had to be in the oven early to be ready on time. The stuffing (which is absolutely my favorite part of the meal. Our recipe goes back to my great-grandmother, who cut it from a magazine.) had been prepared the day before. My dad would help with chopping all the celery and onions for the stuffing.
The pie, pumpkin only when I was a kid, though later expanded to include apple because my dad prefers that to pumpkin, were homemade as well, also cooked up the day before.
So the television would be on, set to NBC, because they carried the Thanksgiving Day parade. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Accept no substitutes, folks, as this is THE parade just like NYC is THE City.
The preshow came on, and there would be acts from Broadway plays, mainly the musicals. That's something I miss on my television now - all the ads for Broadway plays. At this stage, the house didn't smell yet, as the cooking was just getting going.
I'd call my mom into the living room for certain things. (We couldn't pause television in any way back then, either.) The Snoopy balloon. A particularly good marching band. A celebrity I liked.
The highlight of the parade for kids came at the very end. Santa Claus! In my home, that was the official start to the Christmas season.
Once Santa had arrived at the Macy’s store at the end of the parade, we were free to sing Christmas carols. (No Christmas before that!)
At this point, I'd be jumping up and down in the living room, calling, “Mom! Mom! Come quick! Santa's coming!”
By the time Santa showed up, the house was filled with delicious smells - roasting turkey, the sagey scent of stuffing. The potatoes would be in a pot on the stove at that point, along with rutabaga. (We didn't do sweet potatoes at my house, we did rutabaga.) That meant the cooking was getting critical, but Mom always came out to see Santa.
Many years my maternal grandmother and grandfather, along with my aunt and cousin, would drive up to our house for the meal. Sometimes we went to their house. Other years it would just be us, my mom, dad, and sister.
Is it any wonder those foods bring memories and comfort? That I still cook a full Thanksgiving meal now, almost just as my mom did (I cheat on the pies, always have. Hey, nobody doesn't like Sara Lee!) even when it's just my son and I?
I have a lot to be thankful for, not the least of which are the wonderful memories of Thanksgivings long ago, when life was a little slower.