Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving thanks

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I think it's because there's very little about it that has been commercialized. There's no gifts to give, no stress of decorating, but just a lot of good food, friends and family. It's about being thankful for the bountiful things that surround us. It's about being with family, eating too much, taking a nap, sitting by a fire, and just relaxing.

When I was child,  Thanksgiving was the first holiday of the year where turkey was cooked. And there was always a Smithfield ham--that hard, old ham with the strong flavor that Virginians love. And there was sage dressing, oyster stew, corn pudding, yams, a tray of spiced apples and peaches and sweet pickles, and sweet potato pie, mince pie or apple pie for dessert with real churned ice cream. 

The old bone handled knives that my father and grandfather used to carve turkey and ham
Something about the condiment tray that my mother had brings back such a flood of memories. I used to like the spiced peaches that had little cloves stuck in them.  She would also have cranberry relish that she made herself.  My father made the pickles that came from cucumbers in his garden.  I now realize how foreign those things are today--that someone actually makes pickles and even has a condiment tray.  It was old school and is a tradition that we still honor.

All of this was served on the old Hepplewhite table in the big dining room. My father would carve the turkey and the ham with the bone- handled knife that has been in the family for generations. After dinner, everyone would retire to the living room where a fire would be burning in the fireplace. 

It was a time that remarkably didn't have a lot of drinking.  I could feel relaxed because my father was too busy helping in the kitchen, making the gravy for the turkey, and cooking his famous oyster stew. The relatives would be there, drinks would be served, but I can't remember Thanksgiving at home being a bad time when I was a child.  It was as if the day itself transformed people.

And on this current day, it is too warm for a fire. We have prepared a movable feast to take to C.'s parents at their home.  Not all, but some of the same food from my childhood Thanksgivings h
as been prepared.  Later in the day,  I will go to the hospital to visit with a friend's family.  He has invited me to join them in the hospital cafeteria for a Thanksgiving meal.  It won't be anything fancy, but it will have a lot of meaning to his mother who is now in physical rehab after a hip replacement, and to my friend.  

Thanksgiving is about being grateful for not just food but for the good friends and family that we have. It's like a lineage of good feelings on this day. And those feelings are precious and worth holding onto. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.


  1. syd, hope you have an incredible thanksgiving...

  2. Thanks for dropping by, 'precciated all the comments. Recovery, on both sides, is this wonderful gem.

    Up here in the cold north, we had Thanksgiving in October and it was full of family and way to much food. It was a time of being together and laughing, crying and remembering.

    Hope your time is rich and full.

  3. Wish you you and C a very happy Thanksgiving Day. It is not an occasion celebrated in the UK, but I wish it were. Coming into AlAnon has opened my eyes to the joy of gratitude and sharing that with family and friends must be a wonderful thing:)

  4. You have eloquently stated what a fine day it can be, and I hope it is for all you have ever laid eye on to be in some sort or another a day of this type. Be Well and at peace Syd.


  5. Thank you Syd for sharing your traditions. I love the south and feel it's ambiance in everything you wrote today. My gratitude for your friendship runs deep in my heart. Thank you for always being there for me. I am grateful.

  6. Hope your day has been wonderful, Syd. I do.

  7. Just checking your blog and found Al-Anon (that was unknown to me).

    Happy thanksgiving to you.

  8. sounds ! lovely. its great that the event hasn't been hijacked by commercialism. so much nicer :)
    have a lovely dinner and day Syd..

  9. I am so thankful for you and your wonderful blog, Syd. I have been following it for some time now, and your openness and honesty has been lifesaving for me in particular. It would be something to know you in everyday life. Best wishes!

  10. My kids and I learned about Smithfield ham when we lived in Virginia. We lived a couple years in Woodbridge and then we moved south near Virginia Beach for three years. My youngest was born in Virginia so she has ham biscuits for Christmas morning and she does black eyed peas for New Years and has a special heart for southern traditions. I know what you mean about Thanksgiving not being commercialized like other holidays. We don't let the commercialism into our lives and we keep all the holidays true to what is good for us. I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful for all of you.

  11. Your post took me back to Thanksgiving at my Grandmothers. She was the one person who loved me unconditionally no matter what. I miss her terribly but am so grateful that I have items of hers that I now use. She always had a relish tray. She was a true hostess. I have the crystal tray she used. Thank you so much for the remembrance today. Have a great and full weekend.


  12. thank you for sharing such lovely memories Syd and touching on the essential part of the holiday...

  13. Honestly,I wish I could buy your writing in breakfast cereal form,Syd.
    It is always so nourishing and filling..Much like Thanksgiving dinner which by the way , here is very much about the food because it is celebrating Autumns harvest.However,it is each family's traditions that keep the memories warm long after the left overs are cold and gone.. lovely post my friend.


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