So, I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and share about my memorable holiday experiences.
Thanksgiving, for me, used to be a wonderful holiday. Every year, I’d spend the week off from school with one (or sometimes both) of my parents. With my mom, we spent the whole day at my grandparents house and ate too much of my Granny’s famous potato salad and watched Christmas shows with my cousins. It was your typical Thanksgiving gathering.
But spending Thanksgiving with my dad was a special treat. Over the Mississippi River and in Louisiana, they know how to have a party. My grandparents would have family from all over come to visit and stay at their house. Relatives from Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri packed the house. Women cooked last minute dishes in the kitchen while the men watched football in the living room. In the den, kids would be screaming and rolling around on the floor in their play. Teenagers and young adults would be in the “pool room” playing billiards or bashing out a few tunes on the old piano. I learned how to play the game in that room, but I could never master the piano. For the most part, I either helped in the kitchen (I made mashed potatoes one year) or played with distant cousins in the den.
When it was time for the meal, everyone would gather from every room and pray before piling into the kitchen. All variety of pies, meats, casseroles, breads, traditional Cajun foods, and drinks were set up buffet style and there was always the confusion about where the line would start and in which direction it would go. Everyone would scatter from there. Some in the pool room, some in the living room, den, dining room, hallway, or outside on the patio if the day was warm enough. Tables and folding chairs were everywhere and the roar of conversation dulled as mouths were stuffed with delicious foods. compliments and demands for recipes were thrown around in between bites, but the game was always on.
And as soon as the dishes were clear, the sales papers would come out. This was back when Black Friday sales happened the day AFTER Thanksgiving. And it was less of a time to buy for yourself as it was to buy Christmas presents for everyone else. Mothers and grandmothers would flock to the tables, sale ads and newspapers spread out everywhere. They passed around pencils and pens, circling what they wanted and organizing a master plan for the following morning. Since my birthday usually fell on the week after Thanksgiving and I’d be back in Florida before we could celebrate it, I was given my birthday money for Black Friday. As I grew older, it was harder and harder to buy gifts for me, so money was the next best option. That suited me fine because with a couple hundred in my pocket for Black Friday, I could get just about anything I wanted.
As the evening dwindled down and everyone woke up from their turkey nap, a few select family members would meet in the dining room with a couple of decks of cards. The game? I remember it as Presidents, and every year we had to reiterate the rules because it was only played once a year. Uncle Clyde was the keeper of the game and always knew the rules. The head of the table would put down a card and in clockwise order, the next person would have to put down a card to match it or beat it in value. Whoever ran out of cards first was promoted to President, whoever ran out second was Vice President. I remember when you’d move up to the head spot as “President”, you felt you could take on the world and the other eight or ten people around the table hated you for it. But the lowest of the low, the one who ran out of cards last, was SCUM. Next to him was Vice Scum and for some reason, it was incredibly hard to get out of that chair. The order of the rest of the table was determined by who ran out of cards in between. It was great fun, especially for a ten year old who only knew Go Fish. It was special, memorable, and I’ll never forget those people I played with. We’d play until everyone was too tired to see their cards.
But just because we went to bed, didn’t mean we’d get any rest. Because those who were going shopping needed to be up and ready by 2am, sometimes 3am. All the ladies, teens, and anyone else who needed to shop, assembled and caravanned to the iHop for a quick family breakfast. From there, the plan was set into motion. Those who were waiting in line for things sent runners to grab other stuff from the shelves before they were gone. The order of which stores they would visit mattered almost as much as what they were getting. Certain stores didn’t open right away, so they would be saved for later in the day. Certain items were only on sale for a few hours or until they ran out. Vehicles were loaded down with shopping bags, television boxes, computer boxes, toys, games, clothes, jewelry, and exhausted teens who thought they could tag along. A couple of years, I didn’t go to bed and suffered my aching legs and tired eyes until about 10am. I had spent the night before catching up on homework, but it was worth it. I remember being taken home by my Mawmaw once because I could barely keep up in the stores. I still have stuff I bought during Black Friday to this day. And even if those clothes stop fitting me or those DVDs won’t play anymore, I’ll always have the memories.
So even if you’re sitting through a textbook definition of a Thanksgiving gathering, or you’re sitting home with just your close friends and family, I wish you a beautiful and memorable Turkey Day.