Gathering around the table

Olivia Fowler

Olivia Fowler

On The Way

By Olivia Fowler

The old oak table would be pulled apart as far as it would go, and the leaves would be put in. The tablecloth would be ironed and spread upon the table, and everyone would run around a little frazzled carrying out the many and varied tasks that went into preparing Thanksgiving.

The food was always the subject under discussion, and any children in the area were sent on countless errands to fetch and carry, stir, peel and be available at all times for orders.

And the smells coming from the kitchen wafted down the long hall.

Once Grandmama and Uncle Walter got the turkey safely into the oven, Mama would take us all outside and we’d walk through the woods looking for turning leaves to make into an arrangement for the front hall.

And if the pickings were slim, we’d break off branches from the nandina bushes in the front yard, with their bright berries to mix with the autumn leaves.

Surely there were many warm Thanksgivings, but I chiefly remember the crisp ones. Not brutally cold, but cool. Cool enough for a sweater or lightweight jacket, but not so cool that outdoors was uncomfortable.

We’d run in from outside and down the hall to the kitchen. Grandmama would be at the stove or sink, and every time a child ran inside she’d invariably call out, “Don’t slam the door.” This instruction was always half a second too late, because as soon as the words left her mouth there would come the “blamalam!” from the doorway.

Slamming the door was a reflex action. It never was a successful way to close a door, as the old house had settled and the floors were a little uneven. The slammed door would not close securely but swing open. Then it had to be gently closed while the closer listened for the click of the latch.

My older cousins would be in charge of setting the table with the good china that was just brought out of the china cabinet for special days.

What is best remembered is not just the food, but the bright faces of my cousins, Uncle Jack’s laugh, the conversation among the adults and the real joy of being together.

We’re scattered all over the country now and seldom have an opportunity to get together. Now we see each other at weddings and funerals. But the kinship will always be there as long as we live. The ties of childhood memories are strong. We know each other in ways others never can.

We didn’t know that we would be the last generation brought up on a large working farm. We were witnessing the end of a way of life. This never occurred to any of us. But it was true. As one by one my cousins went off to college, we saw them seek jobs where jobs were available. Most found employment in other states and began their own adult lives elsewhere

When we see each other now, there is the instant connection and no lack of talk. And no matter where we all go to celebrate Thanksgiving, our Thanksgiving memories always go with us. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.