Arriving home from our Thanksgiving morning hunting trip, Dad and I would shed our heavy coats and boots in the newly enclosed back porch, and enter the house through the kitchen. We were a bit chilled, of course, from our morning in the cold November fields, and the sudden entry into a kitchen filled with the warm, wonderful smells of a Thanksgiving dinner in the making was one of life’s great moments.
The aroma, and the steamed windows, created a cozy, warm, and “At Home” atmosphere that is seldom matched. My mother, Grandma, and an aunt or two, would be hustling about, seemingly doing several things at once, as preparations for the afternoon’s feast progressed on schedule.
We were quickly hustled out of the kitchen — and out of the way — but not before I was given a large cup of hot chocolate to take to the living room where my uncles would be waiting; watching the the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from New York. Even on the “state-of-the-art” low resolution, black and white, 12 inch screen, I liked the parade; the floats, the bands, and the balloons. The crowds and the occasional street views of 6th Avenue and 34th Street, so very different from small-town, mid-western Aurora, were fascinating to me – being like every other little kid of my time.
Other than last week’s Notre Dame highlights (sponsored by The Plaster Institute), there wasn’t too much football on TV in those days – especially on a Thursday, holiday or not — so my uncle’s and my dad chatted while they half-heartedly watched. Occasionally one of the ladies would take a break from the kitchen and watch the parade for a few moments, with commentary on how wonderful it all looked.
The parade ended with the arrival of Santa Claus, signaling the start of the Christmas season; the parade was sponsored by a department store, after all. But Thanksgiving, and the extended autumn weren’t over just yet. After the end of the parade, and a bit of brief post-festivities commentary, there was a return to normal weekday programming. In due time the TV was turned off, however, as it was getting to be almost time for Dinner.
Our “dining room” – the not so large space between the kitchen doorway, and the large archway to the living room – had been transformed. The modest table within had grown, by means of something called leaves, and was now covered with a spotless white cloth. On the cloth, along with a couple of candles, were dishes, glass and silverware which were only seen a couple of times a year. The men were pressed into service and began filling the strategically located empty spaces on the table with all of the traditional foods of a Thanksgiving Dinner, crowned of course by a large, golden brown, wonderful smelling turkey.
Not being a toddler, or an infant – as my brother and my two cousins then were – I also helped; carrying baskets of rolls, and trays of olives, and the like to the table. When it came time to sit, there was no lesser “kids table”. All of my “peers” had high-chairs and I sat right there at the table with the grown-ups. There’s not much to say about the dinner itself, other than it was wonderful. I responded to an occasional question, but I mostly didn’t chat much during the meal. Although I listened closely to what was being said around the table (You can learn a lot by paying attention), I was much too busy eating to join in.
After dinner the table was cleared, and the kitchen put in order — with but brief, lethargic, and half-hearted efforts by the men. But I was certainly volunteered to help. It was important to clean up right away, for the table would be needed again, in an hour or so, for coffee and home-made pie. The delayed coffee and dessert was every bit as good as the dinner, but by the time we were finished things were starting to get a bit hazy for me, and the next thing I knew I was of waking up the next morning in my bed, with no memory of how I got there.
As I lay there, I soon realized that 1) It was a Friday, and no school, and 2) it was now Christmas time. So I got up and had a bowl of corn flakes to fortify me as I prepared to meet the new season head-on.