Traditions … Memories That We Repeat

– By Andrea Gaines

So, I asked friends and family recently to tell me about their Thanksgiving traditions in preparation for this article.

At first there was silence. And, then, “What do you mean?” And, then, “All I remember is making sure I’d get the turkey leg. For a kid, it was big. I’d eat a little and then put it in a baggie in the refrigerator. I could go back and munch on it anytime I wanted. It lasted for weeks. But, I don’t think we really had any ‘Thanksgiving traditions’ ..”

Well, I rest my case. We have Thanksgiving traditions, alright. We might not think of memories like that as a tradition, the things that punctuate our holiday, make us look back with a smile, remind us of what we look forward to. But, they are right there. To be savored, and repeated.

My turkey leg friend also told me this story: “My aunt Minnie, we called her Skinny Minnie would always get the wing bone. She had a habit of walking around with it pointing into the air, and we’d chant, Skinny Minnie with a bone, Skinny Minnie with a bone.’

It’s also interesting to get a glimpse of how people experience their first Thanksgiving. Here’s one, from a friend of mine who came to the United States as a young nurse – from South Africa. “I came to America from South Africa via England. I was fortunate to get a green card and started working at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan as a nurse. Thanksgiving was approaching and I bought a raffle ticket. And, I won a huge turkey! I was alone so I invited all my coworkers who didn’t have a place to eat, or people who were ‘on call.’ Twelve people came for my huge feast. I had never cooked a turkey … and didn’t know there was a bag of giblets inside. It all turned out well, though. And, I loved my first Thanksgiving in America.”

In my own family, my dear uncle Floyd – who always came to Thanksgiving dinner in a tweed jacket, a colorful ascot he’d bought at a thrift store for 50 cents and gleaming loafers with a new penny in the slot on each shoe – made individual lemon tarts every Thanksgiving. He’d use a cupcake pan and make a dozen little crusts – the old-fashioned way, with butter and flour. He’d fill each with lemon custard, top them off with meringue, and brown them in the oven. We would eat them as soon as he walked through the door. He’d say, “Go ahead! Have one! Nobody lives forever!”

Another friend said that her family changed Thanksgiving dinner to Thanksgiving lunch. All people wanted to do was eat and fall asleep watching football. So why wait until dinnertime?

And, here’s a string of beautiful Thanksgiving traditions and memories from a friend of mine who grew up in Duxbury, Massachusetts, right near Plymouth Rock, of the original Pilgrims fame. “I remember cooking with my mom. Just she and I. We’d make pies, and Indian pudding – with cornmeal and molasses and oatmeal and butter. At sunrise we’d get up early for the Sunrise Pow-Wow, a kind of prayer of thanks for the day. I’d wear my bathing suit under my clothes and we’d dash off down to the water for a turkey day swim.”

Flashes of color, and splashes of salt water and sweet pies and family and a reason just to love life. Skinny Minnie with a bone. Beautiful.

P.S. One more tradition: Turkey hash the day after. I love that one.

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