As most post WWII American parents, Mom and Dad celebrated Thanksgiving Day with extended family—first and second cousins, aunts and uncles from O’Brien and McCoy clans.
The folk at Mom’s table primarily came from Dad’s people who moved from Kentucky to Detroit for work. Dad was the O’Brien baby with nine siblings, Mom the eldest McCoy child with four younger brothers.
There’s nothing Mom loved more than cooking for family, and Dad’s people knew it.
These family dynamics granted our grown O’Brien cousins a place at the table with the adults. My two sisters and I took our Thanksgiving plates to the coffee table in the living room, close enough to hear our company’s chatter and laughter.
Uprooted Appalachians who needed one another, the gluten in Mom’s light rolls held us pilgrims together.
I can still taste Mom’s mashed potatoes and gravy, candied yams, and pecan pie. Those Thanksgiving Day gatherings in Detroit were the happiest years of my childhood.
I doubt my mother knew what historians claim as the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621 with the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians. More important matters clung to Mom’s apron strings. What my sisters and I learned about this national holiday, we heard from Sunday school or public school teachers.
Nonetheless, my mother personified the spiritual meaning of Thanksgiving Day by serving two families bonded by marriage.
As for my father, the celebration offered the opportunity to attach the lights to his movie camera and capture his folk passing turkey platters, gravy bowls, and dishes of dressing around Mom’s candlelit table.
And I’m forever grateful he did. Whenever I watch Dad’s home movies, I pause on faces at the dining room table on Joann Street and test my memory. Upon my last review, I realized my sisters and I are the only surviving family members from that gathering in 1957.
For a brief season while we raised our parents’ sixteen grandchildren, my four sisters and I rotated as hostess for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
Alas, that bountiful season is long past, three generations of Warren and Sadie O’Brien’s offspring sown in Kentucky, California, North Carolina, Tennessee, Atlanta, and Indiana.
Two years ago, for the first time in our marriage, my husband and I walked into a Bob Evans in Kentucky and ordered our Thanksgiving meal. Although the food tasted delicious, it felt odd to have someone work and serve me rather than their family.
When we found ourselves alone on Thanksgiving last year, we decided to drive to Frankenmuth, on the way stop by the place we rented on Center Avenue in Bay City as newlyweds.
Although good sports about the adventure, the dinner couldn’t come close to Bob Evans or home cooking. I resolved Thanksgiving is about preparing good food for my candlelit family table. No matter how small.
Dear Reader, as modern grandparents of a grand-dog, this Thanksgiving I tie my apron and cook with our youngest daughter who said, “Your traditional Thanksgiving menu, please.”
I’ll bake Mom’s light rolls and take videos.
Contact Iris at firstname.lastname@example.org.