My sixty-eighth Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching, and it appears the wife and I will be celebrating this one alone. We’d prefer to be with family, but unfortunately, medical events and logistics prevent such. Sometimes, there’s no way around life’s roadblocks unless you decide to barrel straight through them. I’m less apt to do that at this point because the consequences aren’t always good.
I have many great Thanksgiving memories stored upstairs for safekeeping. All of them are precious except for one. More on that in a few minutes. Thanksgiving with my grandparents didn’t happen every year, as we lived too far away to always venture that direction. I enjoyed five holidays with them at most. The one I remember quite vividly was in 1964, when we journeyed for two days from Lubbock, Texas to Vernon, Alabama, and the same amount of time driving back. I believe after four days of travel, we only spent seventy-two hours with both sets of grandparents.
On that trip, Dad was behind the wheel day and night to get us there. I’d brought along a new camera and somewhere around two in the morning, as I toyed with the device, the flash accidentally went off directly into his rearview mirror. My father veered off the road and blew a tire in the process. He was so mad that Mom had to intervene, or he would’ve killed me. In an act to make sure it wouldn’t happen again, he grabbed and tossed my flash attachment as far as he could. Other than that slight delay, I believe this Thanksgiving turned out just fine.
My worst recollection of a Thanksgiving was when I was perhaps six or seven. We traveled to Birmingham, Alabama to visit my Uncle Noel & Aunt Gay McDaniel, including cousins Randall and Cheryl. Aunt Gay was a perfectionist and she always set a perfect table for holiday dinners. The silverware was in its proper spot, with dishes, plates, and napkins following suit. This was the first time I came in contact with a gravy boat. In our mobile home, gravy was always placed in a small cup or bowl.
When we ate dinner at other people’s homes, my brother and I were often relegated to a small table in the living room. For reasons that I’ll never know, at this meal, Jim and I were allowed to sit with the adults along with our older cousins.
Aunt Gay used a fancy linen tablecloth to cover her expensive oak table. The chairs were big and heavy. At our little trailer in Selma, Mom kept a plastic tablecloth in a kitchen drawer, and it was only brought out for special occasions.
Soon after the blessing was said, I fumbled my glass of sweet Alabama tea. Sticky liquid went everywhere, including into Aunt Gay’s gravy boat. The boat didn’t sink, yet hot gravy overflowed like it’d been torpedoed. To mother, this simple blunder was a major calamity. I’m sure a certain word was whispered by all to describe my clumsiness, yet I’ll keep it secret ’til the very end of this story.
I can still rehash minute details because Mom oftentimes brought this dilemma up at family get-togethers. Over time, she eventually found humor in such.
After the mess was cleaned and tablecloth changed, a card table was quickly erected for us youngsters to finish our meal on. I believe sympathy is the only reason my cousins politely joined Jim and me. For several years after that incident, “card table status” remained a ritual of my holiday dining experience.
These days, I chuckle whenever I see kids enduring the same, figuring at least one of them is also a klutz.