Summary: Instructions from the Prophet Isaiah, teamed with some historical tidbits from the life of John Adams and some recollections and activities from my boyhood--that should help us have a more blessed Thanksgiving
(You will want to substitute your own introduction--In place of my introduction, which is much longer and more personal than I would usually use.)
When I was a child, my family would alternate Thanksgiving Day feasts and activities between the home of my Grandpap and Grandma Williams and the home of my Grandpa and Grandma Keller.
We lived in the country, near New Castle, PA, and the trip to the William’s home was only a one half mile walk or a one and one half mile drive. Thanksgiving Day would begin with my Mother telling me that I was too young and that it was too dangerous for me to go hunting with my Grandpap and Uncles.(A story I would hear until I was on my own at college.) When we got to my Grandparent’s home, I would play with my cousins and await the Noon time return of the hunters, hoping to get a rabbit’s tail or a pheasant’s feather. After they cleaned up, “Dinner’s ready” would be heard throughout the house. Blessing was prayed and the dinner feasting began. Our “Depression Glass” plates and dishes would be filled high with turkey, chicken, ham, stuffed pork chops, squirrel, pheasant, rabbit... Potatoes and carrots that had been dug from the garden, just a few weeks earlier. Rolls, spread with applebutter that I had watched my Grandmother and Aunts make in a huge, black, cast iorn pot--A mix of apples, spices and sugar that had been cooked over an open fire the Summer before. Creamy pumpkin pie…
After dinner, as we awaited a feast of leftovers for supper, I never tired of listing to the stories my Grandpap and Uncles would tell. Often my cousins and I would ask, “Can you tell us again about…?” I loved hearing stories about “The Good Old Days.”
The alternate year’s Thanksgivings would begin with the sounds of my Mother firing up the coal furnace. Before we could leave the house the fire had to be banked just right, hopefully, to keep the house warm and the pipes from freezing until we returned home late that night. Then we began a fifty mile drive, past some new and some familiar sights. Thoughts of Summer fishing trips filled my mind as Dad drove us over beautiful Slippery Rock Creek. For some reason a very large clock, located on the corner where we turned onto Route 19 in Zelienople, always caught my attention. I loved to ride over a certain bridge that caused the tires to sing, as my sister and I wondered if it would hold us until we got over the river.(We really did go “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house…”)
It was hard to know where to look when we crossed another bridge over the Allegheny, one of Pittsburgh’s three big rivers. Peering out the car’s windows I happily looked at the Heinz ketchup and pickle factory.(“57 Varieties”—WOW!) Then I would see a real island, and then large stacks, belching smoke from the steel mills that supplied the world with iron. I thrilled as we drove past the Drake’s Bakery, and I would always ask my Father to stop so that I could take a longer look at the flashing, neon Drake’s Bread Duck Sign. A cartoon-like, action sign that depicted the duck juggling about a dozen loaves of bread into the air, using only its bill.(Dad never did stop: For we were getting closer to his boyhood Squirrel Hill home. He had been born in a long cabin on Mt. Davis; but at a young age had moved to the “big city.”) When we drove past Forbes Field, the old home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and then past Schenley Park and the Phipps Conservatory, I knew we were getting close.
When we arrived at the Keller’s house in the city of Pittsburgh, after warm hugs and kisses, the usual first question was, “Any flat tires?” Then my Grandma would be asked, “What time did you put the turkey into the oven?” My sister and I would then rush to play with cousins who had usually not been seen since the Fourth of July reunion picnic on Mt. Davis.
Grandma already had the dining room table set. Polished silverware gleamed next to her “George and Martha Washington” china. China that was accompanied by real water goblets. As the smells of the turkey beckoned my cousins and me to the kitchen, we would watch my Grandpa put the boiled potatoes through their big, old potato ricer. Grandma making the gravy was the final sign that the feast was about to begin. Large Pittsburgh telephone books would be placed on the chairs of the youngest cousins to boost them up to table level. Grandpa would pray the blessing and Grandma would say, “I hope you are hungry.”