July 15 08:34 PM

Setting the table for Thanksgiving memories

November 12, 2008
Our invitation to readers to share their favorite Thanksgiving dishes gets me thinking about my favorite of all favorite holidays.

It's mostly the memories associated with the day that keep Thanksgiving at the top of the list for me. It's also the whole concept of it—taking time to be grateful. Celebrating that gratitude with others....

...Who am I kidding? Where I come from it meant pigging out in a massive, guilt-free way. For that I was always very grateful. Never did I give a thought to how much hard work my mom put into the eat-a-thon bash. For years and years it involved upwards of 25 people with extended family and all.

Sure, we'd help with setting the tables downstairs—two of those long banquet-hall type wooden monsters that my dad picked up at some going-out-of-business sale or something like that.

Since they were at one time used in an actual banquet hall, these tables were not the flimsy, fold-in-the-middle plastic types that are so convenient today. These behemoths have solid wood tops and steel legs that fold in and out on each end—with no small amount of coaxing. Blunt force trauma with fists was required.

Dawn, Virginia and yours truly getting into the Thanksgiving spirit waiting for guests to arrive.
Once we got big enough, taking the tables down from Frank's oh-so-convenient-and-out-of-the-way pull down storage racks in the basement became part of the job. Wedged in the middle of a narrow hallway type section of the basement between my dad's drawing board (to study blueprints) and my mom's washer and dryer, the table hanger gizmo was of course a very efficient way to conserve space. Actually using it, though, was a nerve-wracking, sweat inducing endeavor that usually fell on Dawn's hands since she had such great upper body strength. It's a two-person job so I, too, did my share of table maneuvering, and working with Dawn made it an even more sweat-inducing, nerve-wracking event because she'd make all sorts of sarcastic comments and I'd get weak from laughter. (It's in honor of Dawn that I refer to my dad as Frank up above as she'd secretly do that to make us all laugh.)

After carefully unhooking the hanger thing they're on and guiding the leaden tables down so they wouldn't crash to the floor we'd have to wedge them from the rack without: a) smashing our fingers; b) dropping them onto the laundry machines and c) banging them around on all the other stuff in the area.

And in case you're wondering, putting them back up the next day was just as "fun."

Still, it was always way, way, totally worth the effort because we knew those sturdy-as-a-rock tables would soon be laden with mounds of delicious food prepared by the greatest chef that ever lived—my mom. I say this in all honesty and without bias. She is truly gifted in the kitchen and like a seasoned athlete, she'd even risk her own physical well-being to put on a great show. I don't know how many burns, cuts and bruises she endured while creating the feast, but recall that there were many. Despite the setbacks—and the pain—she always walked away with the gold medal. Our little table adventure was but a bit part in a grand production.

Still, we really got into our role as stagehands. Because we all loved the holiday and its sentiment so much, we'd decorate up the basement with drawings we'd made of Indians and Pilgrims, cornucopias and pumpkins. And like the stellar mom that she is, my mom would save those creations and we'd dig them out every Thanksgiving and decorate again.

For a couple of years we really took the cake by dressing up as Pilgrims, too. It was of course my idea to help set the mood. My mom—hugely multi-talented—had to make some Pilgrim-looking costumes for a play one of the sisters was in. I thought this was very convenient and for several years "encouraged" Dawn and Virginia to go along with the program and wear them to Thanksgiving dinner. As you can see, Dawn wasn't exactly thrilled with the idea.

I realize now how very much I have to be grateful for when Thanksgiving rolls around. Yes, it was about the outstanding, mouth-watering, belly-filling food. But maybe it's more about all the memories that go along with the meal.

Email Catherine at

Castle Creek
Napco Pipe
07 - 15 - 19
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