We’ve learned a lot about Thanksgiving in the past few years. We’ve learned that the “first Thanksgiving” wasn’t about the Native Americans and European settlers coming together in peace and happiness. We’ve learned that our past has been white-washed to present a history of our country that seems a lot nicer than it really was. So, for me, Thanksgiving is about something different.
As a child, I remember Thanksgiving as a time to be with family. My mom and dad would load us in the car and we’d head to Georgia. We’d either take a short ride to Grandma’s house in Vidalia or the longer one to my Aunts’ house in College Park. The ride wasn’t that long in either case, but it was definitely filled with excited anticipation. My mom and her sisters would spend the evening preparing food for the next day. I don’t know what all they were cooking but it smelled so good. My Aunt Diane always made banana pudding. It was like the heavens sent it. She also managed the dressing. I loved helping her make it. My grandma would make the best sour cream pound cake. I don’t know what anybody else made but they all joined in. My grandma barely had to do a thing. Her girls took care of it all.
Then we’d wake up on that Thanksgiving Thursday and my mom would make a huge breakfast with homemade biscuits, bacon, ham, eggs, and grits. Don’t ask why we needed all the food BEFORE Thanksgiving dinner, but we loved it. My grandma’s house was too small for everyone, but we made it work. She didn’t have central air conditioning so you can imagine the heat that circulated with all that cooking. The window unit was put to work the entire weekend. I loved it though. I can still smell the pungent smell of old home and gas heaters throughout that little old house.
My granddaddy would be sitting in his room wearing his Braves cap and watching football. He was such a quiet man but I loved him so much. He’d pat my head whenever he walked by me. Then there was my Aunt Margaret. She was a nurse. She would go with my mom to get tacos for the family the night everyone arrived. I don’t know why that sticks with me. I just remember those little packets of taco sauce from Taco Bell. My dad would be around somewhere tinkering. He’d call for me and my sister to come outside which we almost always dreaded. We’d reluctantly oblige and then we’d explore the garden and go for a walk in the neighborhood. He’d wave at people and I’d wonder if he knew them. My grandma would be at home sitting in her recliner “not sleeping”. I knew she was proud of her girls for making Thanksgiving happen year after year. It was hard for her to express her joy and gratitude but I knew it was there. My Aunt Diane usually waited until Thanksgiving Day to make her pudding. I always wanted to help. Her face was so soft and I just always wanted to be around her. I learned to make dressing from watching her. I could never get the banana pudding right though. All of these people are gone now.
For me, Thanksgiving isn’t about America. Thanksgiving is about my family. It’s an excuse to come together and show love and get annoyed with each other and make memories and learn traditions and to just be thankful for the relationships I do have. Some years the holiday looks different than others. I’m older now and have a husband and move around a lot. Sometimes I spend this holiday with friends. Sometimes, it’s just me and my husband. Sometimes my husband is away on military duty and I’m just with my family. Whatever the day looks like, I will always have the memories of my childhood and what Thanksgiving felt like back then. Today, I’m creating new memories and remembering to just enjoy the good things.