Not your grandmother’s Thanksgiving

Published 11:00 pm Friday, November 23, 2012

Out of nowhere, the theme from The Twilight Zone was playing in my head.

Dozens and dozens of people I had never seen before were milling all around me with seemingly no purpose. Over the din, I could hear Dailey and Vincent singing “Welcome Home.”

It was Thanksgiving Day and it was dinnertime. What was I doing in the Cracker Barrel?

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Something like this could only happen in The Twilight Zone.

The night before, going to the Cracker Barrel for Thanksgiving dinner had seemed like a good idea.

For the first time, I was holding forth with ol’ Tom Turkey on Black Friday. Getting all the feet under the table on Thanksgiving Day was “might near” impossible. So, to make things more convenient for everyone, we decided to gobble on the Friday after.

That was fine with me because I had no shopping plans. I would rather be put in the lion’s den than in a shopping mall. At least, the lions could eat me and put me out of my misery.

One son has arrived on Wednesday and we, in a moment of apparent delusion, decided that having Thanksgiving dinner at the Cracker Barrel and then catching ‘Lincoln” at the movie theater would be a good and fun way for us to spend Thanksgiving Day.

Little did we know that far too many people do not go over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house on Thanksgiving Day.

No. They take the paved road to … THE CRACKER BARREL.

We had Thanksgiving dinner in the mist of the loud chatter of total strangers. In the background, we could hear kitchen clatter and, every now and then over the soulful acoustic sounds of Alison Krauss and Union Station, a voice rang out, “Jones, party of twelve. Your table is ready.”

We did make the movie. But, to my disappointment, my favorite president of all time, Abraham Lincoln was made to appear, as my granny would say, “wore slam down and limp in the knees” from the war and from his hen-pecking Molly.

The movie was enlightening and the dinner was good, but it was not my grandmother’s Thanksgiving.

Memory took me back to the Thanksgivings that we spent just down the hill at my grandmother’s house.

Mommie would start days in advancing baking cakes and pies for the family dinner.

And, the turkeys in the chicken yard would get anxious, not knowing which would be “invited” to Thanksgiving dinner. A plump hen was always “invited” because a fat hen makes the best dressing and dumplin’s.

The table would be covered with a white tablecloth and spread with all kinds of good things to eat. But back then, “buffet” was the sideboard where Mommie kept her good dishes and the platters and bowls with a gold rim.

Buffet was not a place where people lined up like hogs at the trough.

No. We did not eat buffet style.

On Thanksgiving Day, we put on our Sunday clothes and went to share a special dinner with our family and give thanks for the many blessings that God had given us whether we deserved them or not.

We would all sit around the table with my granddaddy, Pop, at the head. He would have on his kaki pants and starched white, long sleeve shirt with the top button buttoned. We’d all have our cloth napkins opened on our laps ready for him to say the blessing. During the blessing, we closed our eyes and dared not take a peek at all the good food on the table.

When the blessing was said, Pop would carve the turkey and begin passing the food around.

We did not reach for the food. We waited until it was passed to us. What we wanted, we put on our plates. What we didn’t, we passed along.

Back then, we cleaned our plates. There were people all over the world that would go to bed hungry that night, Pop said. We should not waste food.

The grownups talked cheerfully during Thanksgiving dinner. The children were seen but not heard. That was a rule that, I think, was somewhere in the Bible but nobody told us where.

After everyone had finished eating dinner, the dessert was served. It was always ambrosia. That was our family tradition.

After dinner, the grownups sat around and talked all afternoon while we went outside and played. It was always cold on Thanksgiving Day back then and, at dusk, we would gather inside the warmth and coziness of our grandparent’s home for a supper of sausage and syrup and biscuits before saying our sad goodbyes and heartfelt goodnights.

That was Thanksgiving at grandma’s house. How I wish I could go there just one more time.

Jaine Treadwell is features editor of The Messenger. Contact her at