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Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner

Sometimes I wish Mom, Aunt Nell, and Aunt Doris had not been good cooks.  I wish they hadn’t made the most delicious pies and cornbread dressing and casseroles.  Then preparing Thanksgiving dinner would be easier.

Aunt Doris’s chocolate cream pie is still a high standard that no one in my family has reached.  Mom’s dressing was the best ever.  I’ve tried to duplicate Aunt Nell’s asparagus casserole.  I wonder if she added a secret ingredient that’s not in the recipe?  

If my family had never eaten Thanksgiving dinner that Mom and her sisters prepared, maybe they’d be happy with a meal advertised by grocery stores and restaurants.  Turkey, dressing, gravy, two sides, and pumpkin pie for twelve people for $114.95.  Just heat and serve.

Although it’s been more than twenty years since my aunts and Mom served Thanksgiving dinner, my cousins, sister-in-law, and I have carried on the tradition of a home cooked feast. Which makes me wonder how many hours are spent preparing Thanksgiving dinner?

That question came to mind as I stirred cornmeal, an egg, and buttermilk to bake cornbread to be made into dressing three days later.  The cornbread dried out for a few days so it could be crumbled and mixed with celery and onion, chicken bouillon, an egg, and a sprinkling of seasonings. The celery and onion were chopped and sauteed, and because a few people in my family don’t like celery I blend it with bouillon to hide the green.  One time, I omitted celery and used celery salt (omitting additional salt) and that was the worst dressing ever. 

When the dressing is mixed, I form balls, a bit smaller than a tennis ball like Mom did because we like crunchy dressing and every serving browns perfectly.  Hours – just for the cornbread dressing.  As I sometimes say to Husband, “I’m not complaining.  Just thinking out loud.”

There’s nothing to roasting a turkey.  Unless, you brine it so the meat is more tender and delicious.  Dissolve sugar, salt, and spices in hot apple and orange juice and let it cool, and place the turkey in the brine for at least 24 hours. 

Wash the salty brine from the turkey and dry it before roasting.  Husband is in charge of carving and the turkey platter is a work of art.  Each piece is evenly sliced.  Hours – just for the turkey.

Then there are the sides.  Green beans.  Home canned beans are the best, but store-bought ones can be seasoned to taste almost like backyard garden beans.  Corn.  Lima beans. Sweet potato casserole. Mashed potatoes.  Asparagus casserole. Cranberry salad and yeast rolls complete the meal

And desserts.  The crusts of Mom’s pumpkin pie and Aunt Doris’s chocolate pie were made from scratch.  Refrigerated store-bought crusts are almost as good. 

 A heat and serve meal would be easier, but when many cooks bring a dish or two, we get to enjoy the Best Meal of the Year.  The Best – that’s what Daughter says. Soon it’ll be her turn to roast the turkey and make dressing.


Counting Gifts and Blessings

Have you seen the cartoon of a family gathered around a dining room table that’s laden with a Thanksgiving dinner, a perfectly browned turkey and bowls of sides?  A little girl, whose chin almost rests on the table’s edge says, “Shouldn’t we be thankful more than one day a year?”

            Yes, indeed, we should.  A habit that helped me during the pandemic was writing in a gratitude journal that I began years ago.  There’s something about listing and numbering blessings, using a favorite black ink pen on lined spiral-bound paper, that is calming. That reminds me the greatest blessings are gifts of my every day, ordinary life. 

            I credit Ann Voscamp’s books, One Thousand Gifts and One Thousand Gifts Devotional, for prompting me to keep an ongoing list.  Before reading her books, I mentally noted blessings and prayed thanksgivings, but I took Voscamp’s challenge to put pen to paper.  Actually, Voscamp writes that her cynical friends challenged her and her change in attitude led to her books.  Could I list 1000 Gifts? 

             My list began with people.  All those I love most, family and friends.  Then the comforts often taken for granted:  a warm house, food, clothes, car, the freedom to worship, running water.  My list became more specific. Micah, with open mouth and arms, runs to me.  Doing chair yoga with Sheila’s CD. Catching lightning bugs with Lucy.

            Looking back, my journal reads like a diary.  Medicine to control vertigo.  Swimming at the Y with Grands.  College girlfriends come to spend two nights.  Tommy Sue cleaned up my kitchen mess.

            This week guidepost.org posted an article entitled “Gratitude Makeover” which includes tips to stay present and uplifted.  1. As soon as you open your eyes in the morning, say “thank you.” 2.  Start a gratitude journal. 3. Live in wonder. 4. Take a new path. 5. Keep an “attitude of gratitude.”  I’m not surprised that a gratitude journal is number 2, and I’m convinced it leads to number 5.  Doesn’t gratitude create attitude?

            Hot bath.  Warm, comfortable bed.  Cardinal at the birdfeeder.  All Grands gathered around the dining room table to play Bingo. Annabel and Elsie climb their magnolia tree.  Sunshine through the kitchen window.  Fresh strawberries.

            Voscamp’s writings aren’t always comforting.  “Counting 1000 gifts means counting hard things, otherwise I’ve miscounted.” I struggle counting hard things. Holding Joe’s hand as he lay in ICU. Brett undergoing heart surgery. My hand surgery.  Why be thankful for sickness?  For pain, physical and emotional?  Yet, blessings surface even during stressful, difficult times.  Minister prays for healing hearts.  Doctor’s assurances.

            Especially during the past nineteen months, I’ve counted technology blessings:  Zoom, FaceTime, email, and texts.  Even when I couldn’t visit with family and friend in-person, we stay connected.

            This week, I wrote #5099.  A safe walk to my Grands’ house.  Some days, I don’t write in my gratitude journal and other days, my pen almost runs out of ink.   #5100 Being able to write a weekly column.            

‘Tis the season to be thankful. 

Thankful for People We Meet

Mrs. Culp was stern. Her rare, halfway smile was a forced quick grin, as if she thought she should smile.  She spoke in a coarse whisper, which I learned from a friend was the only way she could talk.  She had lost her natural voice years earlier.  She was short and held her chin high; her hair was fixed and sprayed stiff.

            Every week when I took my young children to the Putnam County Public Library, Mrs. Culp was there.  I sometimes wondered if she’d ban us from the library for being too rowdy, too noisy.  When she took our returned books and stamped books we’d chosen to check out, she hardly looked at me and never at Son and Daughter. 

            Then thirty years later, I stood holding a metal bar and lifted my right knee which had been replaced two weeks earlier, and a short, gray-headed woman was guided to the bar directly opposite me.  She looked familiar.  How did I know her?  She struggled to do the exercise the physical therapist had explained, and after a few minutes the therapist told her to stand still and relax.

            The woman looked up at me and in a coarse whisper said, “I remember you.  You brought your children to the library every week.”  I immediately knew that the stern librarian and I were clutching the same metal bar, our fingers almost touched.  I nodded and smiled. 

            Did Mrs. Culp remember when my children hollered for me to get a book off the top shelf?  And the many times we dropped books?

            “You had a girl and a boy and they were always well behaved,” she said.  I thanked her and told her that every time before going in the library we had a use-your-best-manners talk.  “And you brought them every week.  They never ran around or were noisy.  What at they doing now?”

            Was Mrs. Culp, who hardly responded to my greeting when I piled books on the library counter, really interested in my adult children?  I explained that both Daughter and Son were married and had children and I told her about their work.

            “I’d expect they’d grow up and do well,” Mrs. Culp said.  “They were good children.”  I took a deep breath. My children had passed Mrs. Culp’s standards.

            I asked why she was doing physical therapy, and she smiled.  A real smile.  She’d fallen and broken a bone; I don’t remember if it was a hip or leg.  “I really miss the library and seeing people,” Mrs. Culp said. We talked about the feeling of calm by being surrounded by books and people who read.

            Every time I went to physical therapy I looked for Mrs. Culp, but she wasn’t there.  Those few minutes when we stood with toes and fingers almost touching stays with me. 

            Mrs. Culp was a stern librarian who did her job well and remembered my children.  Maybe, like some of us, she mellowed with age. I’m thankful I saw her genuine smile and knew her kind heart.

Breaking Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving is about traditions and I cherish traditions. Even before I was born, Mom, her two sisters, and their parents celebrated together on Thanksgiving Day at noon.  The number of place settings at the table has changed over the past 75 years (yes, 75!). Card tables were set up for us children and grandchildren, and then the passing of grandparents and parents meant we children moved to the dining room table.  Thankfully, in-laws graciously gave us this day, and we’ve welcomed parents-in-law, in-law siblings, boyfriends, and girlfriends.

            Now, we who were born into this tradition are grandparents, and although none of us carry our maternal grandparents’ last name, we gather for the Bertram Family Thanksgiving.  But not this year.  On Thanksgiving Day, we might be with a son’s or daughter’s family. Maybe with a few people that we’ve claimed into our COVID-safe bubble. Maybe alone. 

            I wince when I hear someone say that rules are made to be broken, meaning it’s acceptable, or even good, to break a rule. Rules keep us safe and provide peace and order.  But, we all know instances when rules were broken for good at that moment.

            I take that stance with traditions.  Traditions are made to be broken. It’s the safest and best for my family to not be together this Thanksgiving.  I’ll miss my cousins and their families.  The hugs.  The laughing over the re-telling of stories about our parents and grandparents.  The first time to see a cousin’s six-month-old granddaughter.  The dividing of leftovers. The kitchen clean-up with my sister-in-law and cousins because the best conversations are over the kitchen sink, not at the dinner table. 

            Several weeks ago, I came to terms with our decision and pondered how to make this Thanksgiving a celebration with only Husband and Daughter’s family.  It’s the food.  As Daughter said, “The best meal of the year!” We pared the menu to turkey, cornbread dressing, a few sides, bread, and pies.

            And I thought of two things to make our Thanksgiving unique: turkey bread and a tablecloth.  I hope our Grands and their parents look back on Thanksgiving 2020 and remember that’s when I baked bread that looked kinda’ like a turkey, and we drew and wrote on the table cloth. 

            Neither idea is original. The bread is baked in a round cake pan with one big round roll in the middle (the turkey body) surrounded by smaller rolls (feathers), and a bread dough turkey neck and head draped over the body.  A whole clove marks the turkey’s eye and yellow and brown and orange sprinkles decorate the feathers.  We’ll draw and write on the heavy flannel-backed white table cloth that’s been around for years.

            Sometimes breaking traditions is good.  We Bertram cousins will be together next Thanksgiving and I have a feeling we’ll have a couple of new traditions.  Thanksgiving dinner won’t be complete without turkey bread and the tablecloth from 2020.

            May everyone stay well and enjoy a Happy Thanksgiving.

A Happy Thanksgiving Memory

When Lux moved into our guest bedroom on the Friday after Thanksgiving, 1990, Husband and I welcomed a third child, another teenager. She brought two suitcases, clothes on hangers, and a big smile. Lux, Lavanya, was a Rotary Exchange student from India, and we were her host family for four months.

            About a year earlier, during a family supper discussion Husband talked about the exchange students who presented the Noonday Rotary Club’s program and the idea to invite a student to live with us was born. Daughter and Son, ages 16 and 14, had known other Cookeville High School exchange students and they thought it would be fun.  Husband and I agreed so when he learned that Lux needed a host family, he volunteered.

            Rotary Exchange students are 15-19 years old and attend school while living with two or three hosts families during their 10-12 months experiences.  Lux had requested the United States.  She came from a professional family; an extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. 

            Lux had lived with another Cookeville host family before she came to us so she knew the routines of a being a high school student and had earned how living here was different from living in her home city, a megacity.  But she had been the only child at her first host home and at our house she was thrown into a hectic schedule.  Two working parents and two teen-age siblings who played sports, attended Young Life meetings and church youth groups, and whose friends who were in and out of our home often.  All that activity made Lux’s smile even wider.

            No matter where anyone went, even to the grocery store or post office, Lux wanted go. She especially enjoyed high school and Tennessee Tech basketball games, and although she didn’t understand the rules, she liked the excitement and cheered when we did.   

            Lux sometimes wore a red dot on her forehead.  She explained that where she lived in southern India, a dot could be marked after prayers, but in some Indian cultures, only a married woman can wear a dot, a bindi.  And she explained her altar which set on her bedside table.  Christmas was a natural time to talk about the differences between Christian and Hindu faiths.  These ongoing discussions among made me appreciate this international student exchange program.

            Lux enjoyed the freedom of wearing blue jeans and t-shirts, but for special occasions she chose her native dress, beautiful colorful saris.  Showing her sense of humor, she once dressed in her sari and a baseball cap that Son had given her.  She stood by the door smiling, and as expected, Daughter and Son both shook their heads and told her to either change her clothes or take off the cap.  She giggled and took off the cap.

             Thanksgiving brings memories of Lux, a daughter I thought would move in, then out of our lives, but phone calls, Christmas cards, emails, and social media have kept us in touch.  When she calls and says, “Hi, Mom,” I see her smile and travel back to 1990. 


Savoring Thanksgiving

I’m savoring memories. Yes, Thanksgiving was a week ago and you shoppers hit Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. But I’m taking a few more days to appreciate Thanksgiving.

You can put up Christmas trees, string blinking lights, play “Jingle Bells,” and hide gifts in places you’ll remember, but where no one will look. But also, join me in remembering Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. There are no fireworks, no Easter bunny candy, no wrapped gifts. Just good food and time with family and friends.

Husband and I hosted Thanksgiving dinner (served at 12 noon like all good southerners do) for some of my Bertram relatives, twenty-five people and three generations. None of us carry the Bertram surname; we’re descendants of deceased sisters, my mother and two aunts, who began our Thanksgiving Day tradition more than 60 years ago. In their memory, I put a picture of them with their husbands on our sideboard.

Guests brought the same food the sisters served. Green beans, creamed corn, pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, whipped potatoes, and I’d made cornbread dressing in balls so every serving was crunchy outside and moist inside, just like Mom’s. Alicia’s pumpkin pie was the classic recipe used for decades. Myra perfected Aunt Nell’s asparagus casserole and Brenda has mastered the sweet potato casserole.

But change and surprises happen, for the good. Mike and Sarah served hot chicken-cheese dip and chips while Husband sliced the turkey. Instead of a few carrots and bell pepper strips piled together, Lilly’s veggie tray resembled a turkey. And since none of us dare try to duplicate Aunt Doris’s chocolate cream pie, Amy brought chocolate cake.

There was a time that everyone sat around the dining room table and bowls of food were passed family style. At my house, the food was served buffet style on the kitchen counter. We oldest generation sat at the dining room table and younger folks around folding tables in the garage. After we ate, a new tradition may have begun when Bingo numbers were called until all players won and chose prizes.

Before we filled our plates, I called everyone together for an official welcome. How happy I was that we carry on this family tradition. I mentioned Mom and my aunts and welcomed cousin Brett’s girlfriend and her daughter. Someone whispered there might be a special announcement.

“So before we bless the food, anyone have anything else to share?” I asked.

“Brett might,” his mother said.

All eyes turned to Brett and Kim as he announced, “This morning I asked Kim to marry me and she said, ‘Yes.’ ” Everyone burst into spontaneous applause and cheers of congratulations.

We quieted. I was overcome with sentimental and happy emotions and said, “I meant to pray, but I’ll just cry.” Across the room, Mike smiled, nodded, and said a grateful prayer, blessing the food and us.

Before Christmas busyness strikes, I’m reveling in blessings of traditions, joys of change, and celebration of family. I wish the same for you.


Who Decided Thanksgiving?

As I bake cornbread to make dressing for Thanksgiving dinner at our house, I’m thankful someone else planned the menu and set the date. But who created the menu? Who decided November?

Research led me away from the Thanksgiving story I learned as a child. Historians say it is possible the colonists and Wampanoag Indians, who had lived for thousands of years where the Pilgrims settled, ate a meal together in 1621. But the main meat was probably venison, and more than likely there were races and shooting contests and festivities that lasted at least three days.

George Washington declared a Thanksgiving holiday November 1789, but it was for only that year and wasn’t connected to the Pilgrim feast. He intended the day as a time of “public thanksgiving and prayer” and devoted to “the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”

Thanksgiving wasn’t official until 1863 and it was a woman who came up with the idea for an annual holiday. Sarah Josepha Hale edited an influential women’s magazine, Godey’s Lady’s Book, for forty years from 1837-1877. Hale was an education advocate, a writer, a patriot, and through the magazine she set trends in fashion, reading, and cooking.

When Hale read about the possible 1621 Pilgrim feast, she became determined to turn it into a national holiday. The Godey’s Lady’s Book published recipes for turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie which started food traditions. To gain public support to make Thanksgiving an official annual holiday, she wrote an editorial every year beginning in 1846, and she sent letters to all the United States governors, senators, the president, and other politicians.

Finally, in 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln set the fourth Thursday as the day to celebrate Thanksgiving. In his proclamation, he pleaded that all Americans ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”

So Sarah Joespha Hale gets credit for the tradition of my family gathering around the dining room table and our Thanksgiving menu. And Abraham Lincoln set the date that hasn’t changed in 154 years, except for two years 1939-1940, when Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in hopes of spurring retail sales during the Great Depression. The change met such opposition that he signed a bill in 1941 to return Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday.

I appreciate that both Washington and Lincoln made religious statements when they declared Thanksgiving Day. Washington intended a time for public thanksgiving and praying to “that great and glorious Being.” Lincoln encouraged Americans to ask God to care for people and the nation.

And I’m glad Hale was determined that Thanksgiving be an annual holiday and created a menu of turkey, cornbread dressing, and pumpkin pie. I can’t imagine eating anything different on the fourth Thursday in November.


Thankful for Cousins

screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-8-10-09-amI’m thankful for cousins. Especially my only two first cousins, Mike and Alan. They’re on my emergency call list. You know, that list of three people to call when you need help and they come immediately without asking why and what. They simply ask where.

And I’m thankful for my cousins’ wives who married into a family with strong traditions and they adjusted their family plans around the Bertram traditions. These women have willingly (at least I’ve never heard them complain) taken their turn hosting our family gatherings at noon on Thanksgiving Day. A tradition started by three sisters, my cousins’ mothers and Mom, in the 1940s.

Tomorrow we’ll eat the same foods our mothers prepared years ago. Including cornbread dressing shaped in balls and asparagus casserole with cream of mushroom soup.

I’m thankful for another cousin I’ve recently gotten to know. I’ve always known about Francis, a generation younger than me. Knew when he was born, followed his educational journey, his career success, and knew he lived in Cookeville. A few weeks ago, I had reason to know him personally and hug this cousin.

During the time that our home of 32 years was on the market to sale, I prayed for someone to buy it that would love it. Appreciate the effort we put into building it. Love the trees and yard. Several lookers walked through. Finally, we got the call of an offer and after two more phone calls, we agreed on a price. Then Husband asked who the buyer was.

I called the realtor to be sure of the name.   He confirmed Francis by name and occupation. Francis and his wife had walked through once and made an offer shortly thereafter. “Francis is my cousin,” I said.

Why would anyone make the decision to buy a house after a fifteen-minute walk through? Francis told me, “I’ve always liked your house. When I was a little kid, Mom and I rode bikes past it and she told me, ‘Your cousin lives there.’ She told me how we’re related and about you.”

Francis’s great-grandmother and my grandfather were siblings. His grandmother and my mother, first cousins, were born a few months apart, were everyday playmates as kids and good friends as adults. So that makes Francis and me fourth or fifth cousins or some would say, distant cousins. But in small town South distant cousins, that you like, are cousins with no numbers.

And I’m thankful for Francis’s wife. As I took a seat across from here at a bank conference table to close the house sale, she leaned toward me, put her hands forward, and held my hand. She said, “You must be sad leaving your home. We’ll take good care of it and love it. And bring your grandchildren to play in the creek and snow sled. Our girls would love to meet your grandchildren.”

Thanksgiving. A time to be thankful for cousins and their wives and answered prayers.

Giblet Gravy

Screen Shot 2015-11-26 at 7.45.17 AMThe aroma of cornbread dressing baking in the oven takes me back to being a kid and standing by a stove. Mom and her sisters, Doris and Nell, began taking turns hosting holiday meals in the 1950s. The hostess roasted a turkey and made the dressing, and the other two sisters prepared the side dishes. All three made a dessert and all three had a hand in the gravy no matter where our family celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas.

At our house while the dressing baked, Mom poured the warm turkey drippings from the roasting pan into a bowl. She set a saucepan on the stove eye and turned the setting to medium.   Then she cut a hunk of butter, dropped it into the pan, and handed me a wooden stirring spoon. Aunt Nell and Aunt Doris stood close.

“Now, Ruth,” Aunt Doris said to Mom, “are you sure that pan is big enough?”

“It’s the one I always use,” Mom answered.

“It looks too small to me.”

“You said that last time we made gravy here.”

Aunt Doris used her largest saucepan when we gathered at her house, and Mom always suggested that a smaller pan would be less washing.

Mom added a few spoonfuls of flour to the melted butter. I stirred. Aunt Nell said, “I never understand how you can make gravy and not measure the butter and flour.”

“You don’t think that looks right?” Mom asked.

“I’m sure it is, but I measure.” Aunt Nell looked in the pan. “That looks like it’s stirring up to the right consistency, don’t you think?”

I listened and stirred.

“We can always add a little more flour, mixed with water, if it’s too thin,” Mom said.

“Maybe. But my gravy gets lumpy when I add flour and water,” said Aunt Nell.

As the flour and butter mixture browned, I moved aside so all three sisters could judge its color. Not too light, not too dark. Mom skimmed some of the fat from the turkey drippings and picked up the bowl to pour the broth into the pan.

“I’d wait until it’s a little darker,” said Aunt Doris.

But Mom and Aunt Nell agreed the roux was a perfect caramel color so Mom slowly poured the broth into the pan. “Keep stirring,” she told me and she added a few shakes from the salt and pepper shakers.

While I stirred, Dad sliced the turkey. Mom chopped the cooked turkey gizzard and liver and a boiled egg in pea-size pieces. Aunt Nell and Aunt Doris loaded our dining room table with dressing, sweet potato casserole, white mashed potatoes, cream corn, green beans, lima beans, congealed cranberry salad and homemade yeast rolls.

I knew what came next. The gravy tasting. Each of the sisters dipped a spoon into the gravy saucepan. They blew gently to cool it and then tasted.

“Maybe a little more salt.”

“Do you think it’s thick enough?”

“It’s close to being ready.”

While Dad, uncles, grandparents, cousins, my brother and I stood behind our chairs around the dining room table, the cooks stood by the stove. They salted, stirred, and tasted until they finally agreed that the gravy was good enough to serve.

Mom added the giblets and chopped egg, gave one last stir, and then poured the hot gravy into her china gravy boat. She placed it on the table between the sliced turkey and cornbread dressing.

Day After Thanksgiving

searchSome people shop on Friday after Thanksgiving.   It’s their tradition. One year, I thought I should see what the hullabaloo of Black Friday was all about and went shopping. I vowed to never again set my foot inside a store on the biggest shopping day of the year. That day has held other traditions for me.

When I was growing up, that Friday was hog killing day. As a teacher, Dad had the day off and the temperature was right for handling fresh pork. By day’s end, pork chops, sausage, ribs, and roasts filled our freezer, and salted down ham and bacon slabs hung high from the barn rafters. That night’s supper was fried pork tenderloin, Mom’s Martha White biscuits (slathered with butter), and molasses.

In my young adult years, I started projects on Friday. I made Christmas gifts – cross-stitched samplers, jars of jelly, ceramic bowls. I even sewed a housecoat for Granny and a pantsuit for Mom. And I made both my children Christmas outfits: Daughter’s dress, Son’s vest. Seems the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas was longer then.

When Husband and I moved our family to this house in the woods, Friday was the final fall cleanup-the-yard day. Husband spent all day and Daughter, Son, and I helped. We picked up sticks. We raked. We blew. We dragged huge mounds of leaves on top of a tarpaulin from our grassy yard to our leaf-covered woods. Yard work was finally finished until spring.

Then came the year when Husband and I hosted a pancake breakfast on the day after Thanksgiving. Daughter and her friends had scattered to colleges and jobs after high school graduation. From Texas to South Carolina, from Kentucky to Florida, these sixteen girlfriends separated, but remained close friends. In twos and threes, some attended the same university, but Daughter went alone to a Berry College and missed her friends.

When I heard that all were coming home for Thanksgiving, I thought of the mornings that these girls had eaten pancakes around our dining room table after slumber parties so I sent out an invitation. “Pancake Breakfast. 10:00 a.m. Friday after Thanksgiving at the Ray’s house.”  And they all came! They hugged. They laughed. They cried. They rejoiced to be together again. And they ate every pancake and slice of bacon put on the table. Some stayed an hour, some until mid-afternoon.

A tradition had begun. Once a year for ten years, our entrance hall banister was covered with car keys. Purses slung in corners. Shoes kicked off under the table. These young women giggled like teenagers walking the halls of Cookeville High School. Not all came every year, but at their request, I continued to flip pancakes. They talked about weddings, in-laws, jobs, moves, and babies – all good things that eventually brought this tradition to its end.

I don’t have plans for hog killing or sewing or yard cleanup or pancake breakfast this year. Husband will find the Hefty garbage bags filled with garland and I’ll find the red velvet bows and we’ll hang them across the front porch. I’ll set up the Christmas caroler family and the tabletop Christmas tree that’s decorated with shells. Christmas decorating will begin. But not too vigorously. Friday after Thanksgiving should be a restful day. And surely there’ll be a football game to watch.