Thanksgiving was my brother’s favorite holiday; one he loved to share. Prior to the holiday, he would canvass all of his friends and acquaintances to identify people who had no place to celebrate the big day and then invite them to the celebration. I can remember years when there were 40 or 50 people—a few of whom we never identified.
On Thanksgiving eve he would begin his preparations. Although everyone would bring a dish, he always provided the turkey and two kinds of stuffing: cornbread, made from a store mix and loaded with celery and onions and an oyster dressing that caused more than one family dispute. However, his main contribution was his Thanksgiving punch.
A cross between southern sweet tea and kickapoo joy juice, if spilled, his punch would remove the finish from a table. Along with a group of friends and family, after preparing his dressings and seasoning the turkey, he would begin mixing the punch. To make sure it was perfect, the punch would have to be tasted, the mix adjusted and tasted again. Yearly, sometimes after midnight, those still standing, would declare the punch ready for the big day.
Thanksgiving morning the punch would be poured into the traditional ceramic crock, the turkey placed in the oven and hours before lunch, people would begin to arrive. Another tradition he loved was singing. Immediately before the food was served, everyone would gather, hold hands and with Kay Starr’s version blasting full volume from the stereo, join in singing God Bless America; followed immediately by Thank You For The World So Sweet, a prayer in a song.
Lunch was always the same: the side dishes and oyster dressing were wonderful, unbelievably delicious deserts and a turkey disaster. Do you remember the scene from National Lampoon’s family Christmas movie when Chevy Chase carved the turkey it dissolved into dust, that’s how it usually turned out at my brother’s. But, after the punch who cared.
With everyone tired and full, the day would end early. Four or five of us would stay behind, put my brother to bed and clean up the mess. As he left, my nephew Randy would hoist the punch-crock over his shoulder to carry home, so he could have liquid refreshments for the remainder of the weekend.
We have much to be thankful for: health, family, friends, and our country. When I bow my head to give thanks for all of my blessings, one that I am sure to remember will be the blessing of wonderful memories.
Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,
From North and South, come the pilgrim and guest,
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored,
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before.
What moistens the lips and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich pumpking pie? – John Greenleaf Whittier