Watching my girls’ anticipation of Thanksgiving makes me think of my own Thanksgiving experiences while a child. I cannot remember a Thanksgiving where my parents were married as they divorced when I was eight. I can remember the years my dad drove my sister and me to Jackson, Mississippi, for a yearly celebration with my paternal grandma, Zella. Zella (one of the coolest names I have ever heard to this day) lived with her sister Irene and several little dogs who liked to bite at each other and our dog, Cleo. Charlie, a Lhaso Apso, I recall as being the worst of the pack.
Every year we would eat the Thanksgiving meal at Cousin Lou’s, Irene’s daughter’s house. She was a nurse and quite the creative soul. There were usually piles of projects stacked around the house with one year clay jewelry being her interest of choice. That year she gave me an emerald green glazed medallion with my name carved on the front which hung from a black velvet rope. I wore that necklace with much pride for years as it was difficult to find any items with “Courtney” engraved on them, and I now wonder whatever happened to it.
The counters in Cousin Lou’s kitchen were always overflowing with food, but I was a picky eater, so I usually only ate the mashed potatoes and yeasty rolls with butter all the while anticipating dessert and the return to my grandma’s house. Since we only saw Cousin Lou and her much older children once a year, I did not know anyone while my extreme shyness did not help the situation.
Cousin Lou had three sons and a daughter. At one point her younger sons became addicted to drugs and robbed my grandmother and great aunt’s house. My grandmother and great aunt have since passed, and the last time I saw Cousin Lou was when she came to say a final good-bye to my dad when he was dying from cancer.
After my dad remarried, I went solo with him and his wife one Thanksgiving to my stepmother’s brother’s house. He and his wife at the time were artistic, and as I think back, had an interesting house filled with colorful creative pieces. I believe my dad was dreading the idea of having to go to their house from the start. When we arrived, the house was full of people, but the turkey had yet to be put into the oven which meant we would not be eating for several hours. My dad pulled my stepmother aside, and I overheard him say, “You set me up!”
Within the hour we were driving the streets of St. Louis looking for an open restaurant in which to eat our Thanksgiving meal. Finding a Pantera’s we ordered pizza, and I ate while they sat in silence. This, without a doubt, was my most mouth-watering childhood Thanksgiving dinner complete with extra cheese.
Now as an adult, my heart swells at my children’s joy as Thanksgiving nears. They embrace the stability of a meal comprised of their favorites (as they compose the menu) year after year seated next to their mom and dad. On this Thanksgiving I wish you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving filled to the brim with much gratitude and, perhaps, some extra cheese.