What We Can Learn From Our Mother’s About Thanksgiving

By Mary Wenger, registered nurse and creator of MarytotheContrary.com

I am in my late 70’s, and it is during this time of year that I think about my parents the most. My mother was a generally unhappy woman, but at Thanksgiving time she was always happy. This is when I think about her and my father the most.

My mother started preparing for Thanksgiving in early November, and her preparations were all about the details. She began by pulling out the recipe books to decide which cookies we would be eating. There would be hundreds of them. One unforgettable year she made 90 dozen cookies, and she always gave most of them away. Thanksgiving through Christmas was the only time of year when, for my mother, it was really about everyone else.

After the cookie planning started, she turned her attention to the turkey.  My father was a welder. We did not have a lot of money, but we were a family of seven so we needed a large turkey – very large – and it was always expensive. This was the one item my mother would splurge on at the the local farm. Mom would proudly make a call to this local farm to order the fat bird, and hang up with a smile as fat as the bird itself.  

Before Thanksgiving dinner we piled into the family car and headed to Cumberland Street in our small town of Lebanon, Pennsylvania to see the Thanksgiving parade. My siblings and I stood in the cold, waiting for what seemed like hours, our hands and toes frozen and teeth shattering as steam puffed through our noses in anticipation.  Our Thanksgiving Day parade was not big, but to us it was so exciting and gigantic. People would dress up and toss candy and gum, which to us kids was a big deal; we would scramble to catch as much as we could in that freezing cold air. The parade marked the unofficial start of Christmas. At the end, Santa Claus would climb up on the fire truck, then up the fire ladder to the second floor of the big department store in town, Bon Ton. There he would wave to the crowd, throwing candy out to all of us.  

We had a lot of food at our Pennsylvania Dutch dinner table: an enormous turkey, peas, creamed corn, jellied cranberry, thick slices of white bread, stuffing, salad, boiled and thick cut potatoes, sweet potatoes with huge chunks of butter, and heaps of mashed potatoes made with real cream. We all drank tall glasses of chocolate milk. For dessert, we could choose from ice cream, jello, cakes and pies.

Thanksgiving represented my mother’s vision of how things could be at her best with our family. She taught me that it’s what you do by example, taking the time to create something for someone else. The details are what people remember. I remember how much she worried about where she got the turkey, the size and plumpness of the turkey, the cookies she would bake, the flour she would use, where she bought the butter, the table setting, and what time we would leave for the parade. Preparing our family for every detail mattered. My mother made sure everyone was ready and together, and she started to ready us early for what was to come next, from food shopping to where we would stand on the parade route for the best experience in our humble town. Family matters, if even for a moment. Eventually we would all split up and live our separate lives. Many of us would stop speaking to each other altogether. On this day we were one, a whole unit in a temporary glory she could revel in.

In one sense, Thanksgiving was an ominous holiday. It signaled that Christmas was on the way. The day wasn’t about the settlers, but that something else was on the horizon; it was a prelude. My mother felt that Thanksgiving, more than any other time of year, was important. To this day, I do too.

I am in a rehabilitation facility temporarily, recovering from brain surgery. I may not be able to come home for Thanksgiving. My daughter is spending the days here with me and we are going over the list of food I’d like to have on Thanksgiving day. She and my son-in-law will have to cook and bring the meal to me. As these memories surface, I am thankful that I am alive today and able pass these memories and lessons on to her.

29 Comments

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  1. Thanksgiving period is that time of the year where we reflect on our lives and are thankful,we prepare well for it through what we eat,the things we give away and are excited because Christmas is around the corner.

  2. The spirit of Thanksgiving is too receive more. If you are not thankful you are ingrate

  3. An adage says, he who appreciates what was given to him today will surely receive more of it. So it’s good to be grateful at all cost.

  4. Thanksgiving is very necessary in our life

  5. When you are appreciative, more blessings will come

  6. Thanks giving is a period we spend with family and friends thanking God and eating

  7. I learnt that when you give thanks blessings will surely follow

  8. Always be grateful for the little you have never groan so more may come your way.

  9. Seriously is good to be thankful sha,,, very nice

  10. Thanksgiving is a way of giving to God for all he has done in your life

  11. Remembering the good things the lord has done, it’s good to thank God

  12. thanks God I really learn a lot from my mom

  13. God doesn’t ask anything from us than to thank him for what he has done for us

  14. Thanksgiving is a period and time when we cone together as one to celebrate and give thanks to our creator…for his goid doings in oitlr lives…

  15. It’s general, mothers don’t play with Thanksgiving. My mom taught me to always wear happy hrt for a thanksgiving whether big or small

  16. God bless the womb I came from… it’s good to be thankful

  17. Honestly it’s good to be thankful.

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