I hummed along to Glenn Miller’s “String of Pearls” and set the dining room table for Thanksgiving Day dinner guests: our daughter Ruth, and Mel’s younger brother Miles and his wife Mary from Whitefish Lake.
Miller’s sliding trombone provoked memories of 18960 Joann Street in Detroit. There, my sisters and I danced and shouted “Pennsylvania six, five thousand!”
Three tender Appalachian transplants, we had no clue Pennsylvania was another state in the United States of America. We also didn’t know “Pennsylvania six, five thousand” was a phone number.
Where we came from along the banks of Peter Creek in Kentucky, only post offices, stores, and a few rich people had phones. Everyone else hollered up and down the hills to their neighbors.
Thanksgiving Day on Joann Street, Dad took home movies of my sisters and me and our cousins. We danced to “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” and the silly “I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo.” More places we didn’t know. Meanwhile, Mom’s huge, stuffed turkey baked in her oven. Her light rolls rose in muffin tins on the back of her stove. Her pecan, apple, and pumpkin pies cooled on the kitchen counter while she mashed potatoes and baked candied yams with marshmallows.
At last, Dad filmed Mom’s candlelit table. Elbow to elbow, our father’s kinfolk passed platters and bowls in gratitude of Mom’s good, home cookin’.
In this reflective mood, I laid my eyes upon the sparkling, crystal glasses I inherited from my mother and listened to Glenn Miller’s lyrics. The meaning of the words illumined my understanding.
As a child, I’d danced in oblivious bliss of my father’s part in the Allied Forces’ victory of World War II. Now, at the age of Dad’s death, I at last comprehended his reverence for Glen Miller’s music – songs that spoke the camaraderie of love and hope for his safe return to Peter Creek from overseas.
I woke rested and enthused to a drizzly Thanksgiving morning, thinking of Ruth walking in the Detroit parade.
Miles and Mary arrived around nine o’clock and unloaded the turkey in a roasting pan.
“Miles’ mom gave me the roaster,” Mary said.
“She filled my kitchen with her gifts, too,” I replied.
“When do you expect Ruth?” she asked.
“The parade ends at noon. So between two and three.”
My first co-op traditional Thanksgiving dinner, Mary also provided the dressing and gravy and her homemade pecan pie (per Ruth’s request), with a can of Reddi-Whip.
Ruth and our grand-dog Lily walked in while Miles carved the turkey. He obliged samplings for Lily.
Unlike the bygone Thanksgivings of our childhoods and our children’s, we passed platters and bowls with ample elbow room. No children jitterbugged to Glenn Miller’s swing, nor played touch football outdoors.
Yet, to my chagrin, this Thanksgiving dinner owns one unforgettable bungle: my repulsive green bean casserole.
It’s confirmed, dear Reader, the expiration date on the French fried onion can read 2017.
Food. Family. Story. Thus began another blessed Advent season.
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