Thanksgiving Day has arrived and it’s my turn to share one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories, as has each member of the TSB staff as we posted our countdown to Thanksgiving. It’s difficult for me to choose one, and as I write this column, this year is fast becoming my favorite memory. In the midst of a full day of preparations in the kitchen, which included nearly burning down the house as my oven caught on fire, I’m especially thankful that the fire was contained to my oven, my family is safe and the house is still standing!
As a child growing up in Pennsylvania, my family and I usually spent Thanksgiving gathering at my Grammie’s house in Pennsylvania, along with my Aunts, Uncles and cousins. My grandmother was the pie baker extraordinaire, and I can still imagine the smell of her cinnamon scented, juicy apple pies, mingling with the scent of the turkey roasting in the oven, hitting me as I walked into her house, screen door slamming behind me. During those years, I never dreamed that one day I’d be feasting on my Thanksgiving dinner in Portland, Oregon.
It was 1999, and we were living in Lake Oswego, Oregon after my then husband had been transferred to the headquarters of the company he worked for at the time. The Thanksgiving holiday loomed ahead in early November of that year and traveling to Pennsylvania or Texas to celebrate Thanksgiving with family was not possible.
Throughout most of my adult life, we did not live near our extended families, so I began a tradition of inviting other friends, who would also be spending the holiday without their extended family, to our home to celebrate.
So, what do you get when you combine some Texans, Californians, Oregonians and a family from Chicago? An “orphan” Thanksgiving, as my friends and I labeled it. With the invitation to my friends was the instruction to bring the traditional dish that their family always had on the Thanksgiving table. There were twenty one of us, with ten adults and the rest kids.
“Just bring whatever favorite dish that your family always has on Thanksgiving,” I instructed.
Meanwhile, my neighbor, Mike, who was included on the guest list, began mentioning that he had heard about buttermilk pie during his travels to Texas, but had never sampled this pie that sounded so “unusual” to him. So, as my friends and I planned the menu, my assignment was to stuff and roast the turkey, make the mashed potatoes and gravy and the pies – oh, and my favorite – the sweet potato casserole.
When Thanksgiving day arrived, I began the task of stuffing the turkey and and I baked pumpkin, apple, mincemeat and buttermilk pie, hoping that someday I would be as good at pie baking as my grandmother!
I can’t remember now what each family brought, except that my neighbor brought her famous homemade rolls, and I still chuckle when I remember that another of my dear friends brought red jello because her son absolutely didn’t think it was Thanksgiving without red jello! The table was laden with everything you can think of that says “it’s Thanksgiving!” What a spread we had!
During Thanksgiving dinner, as I looked across the table of ten adults and listened to the lively, animated conversation, I could also hear the loud laughter of the eleven kids in the other room, as they surely talked about the things they didn’t want to share with the adults, or laughed over something only kids would find that funny. I remember feeling so blessed to have such wonderful friends gathered together.
I’ll never forget that when it came time for dessert, Mike decided that he needed a dinner plate, instead of a dessert plate, for his pie. He had a piece of every kind of pie on the dessert buffet, and with a big grin, announced he loved the buttermilk pie.
It was so much fun to share our Thanksgiving with our friends It wasn’t the food that mattered, it was the camaraderie that we “nomads” had established, bringing together different cultural experiences, putting aside political differences, as well as the differences from our upbringings, in order to come together in friendship.
I still think of our Oregon friends at Thanksgiving, although some of them have moved back to California, and of course, I’m back in Texas. I’m reminded of this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.”
Wishing each of you a day filled with love, sharing, thanksgiving, and, a bit of time for memories.