a mississippi thanksgiving.
On a Saturday afternoon in April, my six-year-old granddaughter Collins was making her way back to her room from the kitchen. It was "her" room because it used to be her mom's room. I guess she figured if it was her mom's, then it was hers. Passing by me she said in her matter of fact voice, "Soso, I really like how you decorate for all the holidays. "
Easter was approaching, and I had the house decorated in crosses, bunnies, and various Easter sayings. I said, "Thank you," thinking that completed the conversation.
She then turned to look at me and said, "Christmas must be your very favorite holiday since you decorate a whole bunch!"
"No," I answered, "Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. "Seemingly surprised, I waited for the next question, but it didn't come. Instead, she continued the trek back to her room.
If she had waited, I'd have told her that as a young child, we lived outside St. Louis, Missouri. Three times a year, we made the trip home to Mississippi. One trip was Thanksgiving. All of my dad's brothers and sisters would be there except for my Uncle Charles and his family. They lived in Albuquerque, and it was just too far for them to travel.
We'd leave at lunch on Wednesday and arrive at my grandparent's house after dark. We ate a late supper of country fried steaks, creamed potatoes, biscuits, brown gravy, and chocolate gravy for dessert. After supper, my parents sent us straight to bed. I could not wait to snuggle down underneath the big pile of warm quilts.
The next morning, I could hear the sound of the radio. I would reach outside the warm covers for the clothes mom had left next to me and quickly dress. Then I'd jump out of bed and run to the den to take my place in front of the little propane gas heater. There was an unwritten rule; you could warm your front and your back, and then you must move out of the way because there was always someone else waiting to get warm.
Soon, aunts and cousins were coming in, bringing delicious foods. The men were in the yard or the woods hunting. Around 10:30, Mama Swann began putting food on the table. First was the Sunday dinner food of purple hull peas, butterbeans, ham, green beans, and fluffy creamed potatoes. Then came the Thanksgiving food, consisting of a large turkey, sweet potato casserole, cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce, giblet gravy, rolls, and deviled eggs. There were chocolate and sweet potato pies, chocolate and coconut cakes, a large banana pudding, and cookies galore all lined up on the metal shelf.
The men would come in about 11 as they always ate first, followed by children and women. It wasn't until I was grown that I no longer viewed this practice as discriminatory. If the women went last, they could sit and enjoy the meal as long they wanted. The rest of the day was spent in rest and fellowship followed by a rowdy game of Rook for the adults. I have tried to continue this very special day with my children, grandchildren, my mom and sister, my in-laws, friends, and others who have no place to go. Anyone is welcome on Thanksgiving. I cannot promise a china-filled table, but I can guarantee that it will be a day for making memories much like those made years ago in that small community of Hurricane. Those precious memories were what made a Mississippi Thanksgiving my favorite day.
illustrator SAM BEIBERS