A couple of decades and lifetimes ago, my Thanksgivings were spent around a large rectangular rough wood table in the kitchen of my “second family’s” old farm house in rural West Virginia.
There was always a fire in the wood burning kitchen stove, and if it was a particularly cold evening, Ed would open the oven door, put one of the kitchen chair’s cushion on the door, stoke up the fire, and call it the Florida seat just for me. I could perch there on the door for the entire night, the smell of the burning wood mingling with the delicious scents of the feast in front of us.
Linda, my West Virginia mom, is of Portuguese and Italian descent, and therefor would always cook up a huge dish of lasagna to go with the traditional turkey fare. Neighbors and friends would stop in with more home-cooked dishes to share, whether just stopping by for a Thanksgiving visit, or staying for supper. The food and diners would often overflow from the kitchen table to the living room, with forays out onto the makeshift benches on the front porch to take a break from the many rounds of full plates, and have a smoke.
There were also my early-childhood Thanksgivings in Florida, with the long drive across Alligator Alley from the east coast with my mom and brother to visit our grand and great-grand parents who lived west of Lake Okeechobee. My brother and I would fight over whose turn it was to sit in the front seat, then fight more about who was touching whom instead of keeping our hands to ourselves. Then I would stare blankly out the window into the everglades which seemed to go on and on forever on either side of the two-lane road.
I loved the smell and feel of my great-grandmother, Nana, when she hugged me close. She smelled of baby powder and fresh cotton, and her skin was soft, plump, and wrinkled. Nana had a way of making each of us feel like the most special and loved person on earth. The game was on the TV in the background, and to this day the sound of a football or baseball game on the TV or radio makes me think wistfully of my great-grandfather, Pop.
We had a small family, an even smaller one now, but I vaguely have memories of other children around the kids’ table on Thanksgiving, who were perhaps in some way related to us.
I give thanks this year for all the memories created by my family; family of birth and expanded families of choice. For the many ways they have each shaped the woman I am today, and for surrounding me with love and support then and now.
Thank you for reading along on my journey. More will be revealed…