Thanksgiving was always a big deal in our house for two reasons: we had a huge formal dinner at which we counted our blessings and stuffed ourselves, and we had football. The entire family gathered for a spectacular meal at a well-dressed table, and then everyone went to the family room to watch the football game, cheering and yelling and having a good time.
Thanksgiving didn't happen all by itself. It took a lot of effort to pull off one of the biggest celebrations of the year. Mom did most of the work. Everyone else's job was to stay out of the way and assist only when asked.
Thanksgiving preparations took days. Mom began by making homemade pie crusts for the pumpkin pies. The frozen turkey went into the refrigerator to thaw, and then Mom began on the sides. Boiled potatoes became mashed potatoes, green beans danced in a thick sauce made from cream of mushroom soup, Mom chopped celery and onions for the stuffing and she made homemade yeast rolls.
On Thanksgiving Day we watched the annual Macy's Day parade while Mom put the turkey in the oven, cooked a sweet-tart cranberry sauce from scratch and made homemade whipped cream as fluffy as clouds on an autumn day.
When the parade was over, we helped Mom set the table with her finest linens, the good china and the silver utensils. Mom sent the younger kids outside to collect leaves of red gold and orange to use as table decoration around the plates while she and the older kids placed sets of forks, spoons and knives around the table. Next we added the napkins, trivets and candles.
And with that, we were ready for Thanksgiving dinner.
Everyone assembled for the grand, formal meal. We wore our Sunday best. Mom expected no less, especially after all she had done to prepare such a delicious meal. Grandma wore a beaded jacket that glittered in the candlelight, and the boys even had on neckties.
But Dad was missing. He was in the family room, yelling at the TV.
“Whaddya mean the game isn't on? How can it be Thanksgiving with no game?” he hollered at the television. The big electronic box sat there, dark and quiet. “We have to have football! It's what we do on Thanksgiving!”
The TV was broken. There would be no football this Thanksgiving.
Mom intervened and finally got Dad to the dinner table, whereupon he grudgingly led us in prayer.
When Dad finished with the blessing, it was our tradition to pass the serving bowls to the left as Dad carved the turkey. We passed the mashed potatoes, the green bean casserole, the stuffing and the cranberry sauce to the left so that the food went in a continuous circle. Then we passed our plate to Dad for our serving of turkey.
As the family began eating our delectable meal, we spoke of the year behind us, and what we were most thankful for.
Mom said, “Well, I am VERY thankful that the television went out today. Because there's no football, you all can enjoy this fine dinner longer. You don't need to jump up and rush off to see the game.”
My brother said, “Please pass the rolls.”
Dad looked at the basket of warm yeast rolls next to him. Then he looked at my brother, and a wry smile broke out across his face.
“Did you say pass the rolls?” Dad asked.
My brother read Dad's mind and his face lit up. He held his arms in position, waiting for the pass.
Mom saw the play go into action but could only say, “No!” before Dad launched a dinner roll into the air. My brother received the bomb neatly in the crook of his arm.
That one play broke the formal stiffness at dinner, and we had our own mini football game at the Thanksgiving table. Mom wasn't happy about playing at such a formal meal, but was one of the best Thanksgivings we had ever had. Even Grandma got into the action.
As for me, I was thankful for a dad that knew how to have fun at the dinner table and start a new family tradition!