Like Christmas, but Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving at Granny and Daddy Hob’s was like early Christmas. No gifts, and no tree. But the other elements like Christmas. Every aunt and uncle and cousin pressing into my grandparents’ small, white aluminum-sided home. The Deans didn’t come to Kentucky for Christmas, but they came for Thanksgiving. That made the full house.
While Granny and the aunts worked to finish the food preparations, us kids made use of the blue room and the pink room. The boys’ room and the girls’ room they were called still, though it had been some years since Granny and Daddy Hob's boys and girls had lived there.
The pink room had more floor space, which meant we found ourselves in that one most. That closet held any games or toys, plus an large collection of hardbound Reader’s Digests. That wasn’t important to any of us, but it was difficult not to notice it when we opened the door for anything. It smelled like those books, those books which had absorbed my grandfather’s cigarette smoke, Granny’s Avon perfumes, and farm scents. We didn’t pay much mind to that either, except it was familiar and present when we hid in there for hide-and-go-seek or dug for the Bingo box.
We were told a million times to stay off the beds. No jumping or sitting on them. That’s a silly thing to ask of children, aged anywhere between ten and two, the bulk of them boys. We tried to mind the adults, or maybe we didn’t. The feather beds told on us, as they don’t hold their shape like modern mattresses. I don’t remember if we got in trouble for mussing up the beds. I do remember how mussed up they became, but we were told to stay out of the kitchen and out from underfoot. What else was a kid to do?
The women set the long farm table in the kitchen with Granny’s fine china, white porcelain with soft grey and silver details on the edges. Place settings pushed as close together as possible to accommodate five offspring and their spouses. Daddy Hob at the head of the table, Granny at the opposite end, because, aside from her rightful place there, she felt sure she was the only one to be trusted not to flip a ladder back chair into the kitty-cornered china cabinet.
Dish by dish, they filled in the center of the table. Turkey, mashed potatoes, oyster casserole. White corn, from a garden harvest. Broccoli casserole. Homemade rolls, stuffing, and gravy. The premier offering, which was not the bird—Granny’s green beans. We didn’t know what her magic was, how she performed it. We only knew that her green beans, also from a garden harvest and made with lard that was also a harvest of sorts, were the centralized sun around which the rest of the meal orbited.
The massive table existed for the adults, as is the custom. The kids belonged on the back porch, the little mudroom space adjacent to the kitchen. I don't know where we all sat, because the kids’ table was a brown-vinyled, gold-legged card table with four matching chairs, and the one stool with a black vinyl seat. Maybe someone sat in a high chair. Parents helped the us with our plates, so as to avoid desecrating the adult table with gravy spills and toppled glasses, and we found our seats somewhere.
As we ate and carried on our own child conversations, we would hear the adults talking. Someone would laugh, a few chuckles spread, and then it caught on and would swell and tumble into our back porch. Some of us went back for seconds of green beans. Our small frames squishing in between this aunt and that uncle, asking for something else. We ate quickly. Then we went to play some more until the grownups let us know we could have dessert.
I guess there was pumpkin pie, at least pumpkin roll, but always there was Crazy Cake. God bless the aunts and Granny who swept up crumbs off the back porch floor, because I don’t think we paid that any never mind. Between the meal and chocolate cake, they had a job tidying after us.
By the time the kids were all spent and becoming irritable with one another, the kitchen was mostly back in order. Leftovers refrigerated, cake covered in foil, china ready to return to the cabinet in the corner. Bit by bit, each family retrieved their coats from Granny and Daddy Hob’s bed and bundled up and trickled to their cars to go home and sleep off the meal.
The Deans were in Kentucky, so the little white house would be bustling in some fashion over the long weekend. Granny's kitchen would be in and out of order over and over. We didn't know that then, and we didn't appreciate what work it required of the adults. We were kids. We knew it was like Christmas, and maybe better.