I have wonderful childhood memories concerning thanksgiving day. I remember getting up early to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and to smell the food that my Mom and Dad were making. Between the smell of Dad’s smoked turkey and Mom’s giblet gravy, I could not wait to get to Granny’s and to eat.
During my childhood, my family and I would go to my maternal grandparents’ house between Lawrenceville and Lilburn. Back then, most of Gwinnett was rural (country, that is) and U.S. Hwy. 29 was a two lane highway. Only when we got closer to Granny’s house did U.S. Hwy. 29 turn into a four lane highway. Unfortunately, these roads are the norm in Gwinnett. However, I digress.
Granny’s house was not that big. At best, it had 3 bedrooms and one bathroom. The house did not have a foundation underneath it, but was supported by bricks. Granny’s house had fields, a barn, a chicken coop, a smokehouse, and a corn crib. Her home was an oasis to the suburbia that had surrounded it. My family and I would always get there early to get a decent parking place (ie, on the driveway and not in red Georgia clay).
The reason my family and I had to get there early was that I had 12 aunts and uncles and an equal (if not more) number of cousins. Thanksgiving was a major event in our extended family. All of the grandchildren would play outside in the fields that surrounded Granny and Papaw’s house. One of my reasons for my passionate love for football is playing with my cousins on those crisp and cool November days.
With 12 aunts and uncles and an equal number of cousins, there was no room in the kitchen for the kids. In fact, there was barely enough room for 6 people in that small kitchen. The living room was where the grandkids were regulated to eat. It was affectionately called the “Kiddie Table” (or at least, it is how I view it now). To make matters worse, there was only two inn tables and one coffee table in that living room. If you were lucky to get a spot to put your plate (which was always brimming with food), you could never leave it because departure equaled abdication. The television was an old model from the 60s. There were three knobs. One knob was for VHF, the other was for UHF, and the last was the on/off switch and volume control. (If you have to ask what these things mean, you are too young too understand and it shows how old I am.) It was important to set the TV early. To turn the channel, you had to physically turn the knobs, and if you got up, you lost your seat. It was not until I was in college, did I sit at the adult table. When I finally reached this plateau of adulthood, I only stayed about five minutes. It was boring.
There was no shortage of food, people and love. Yet, there was only one unspoken rule at Thanksgiving: don’t sit in Papaw’s chair (The Elmer Chair). It was a leather recliner. This recliner had seen a lot of work, even I was a child. Papaw (aka Elmer) could be sound asleep in this chair, even with all of his grandchildren running like hellions through his house. It was a proven fact that if you sat in this chair for more than five minutes, you would be sound asleep. Again, I ramble.
After spending the day running, playing, jostling for a good place to put your plate, and eating, Thanksgiving was concluded by the watching of the lighting of the Rich’s Great Tree. The lighting was done at the Rich’s department store in downtown Atlanta, a stone throw away from the Capitol, the old post office, the Federal Courthouse and everything else important in town. Unlike the modern day where the holidays merge and blend together, Christmas in Atlanta would not start until the lighting of that great tree. I am just glad that I had the opportunity to see the lighting of the Great Tree in Atlanta, before it was moved to the land of suburban concentration camps and wanton consumerism.
Now that I am older, I cherish these childhood memories of Thanksgiving. These memories are one of many things that I am thankful for this year.