“Memories light the corners of my mind. Misty watercolor memories” . . . Lyrics from the song made popular in the early seventies by Barbara Streisand, from the pen and piano of the late Marvin Hamlisch. Yes, watercolor memories of the way we were. To me, this time of the year conjures recollections of past holiday seasons when you could actually say “Merry Christmas” and not worry about possibly offending another’s sensibilities or ethnic background. But that is not what his posting is about. It’s about the watercolor memories of my childhood Thanksgiving Days.
It’s about family and food and fun. I came from a rather large extended family.
In addition to my three siblings there were eleven cousins from my mother’s side of the clan and nine from my dad’s side. Most of us lived in the same area of south Louisiana and we all spent a lot of time together, especially during the holidays.
On my mother’s side all fifteen of the cousins somehow managed to go to the same schools at one time or another. That is the ones who were of an age where the age appropriate classes were available. We were close in age and loved each other’s company, but somehow the holidays seemed to bring us closer together. I guess for a few years in our childhood, mother’s father was still alive and we gathered at his home on a regular basis. But the holidays were the most special occasions.
Mother had six siblings who lived in New Orleans (this for you younger folks was a time when no one ever moved away to another state unless you were in the military) and we all got together at one another’s home for the festivities.
What would Thanksgiving Day be without football? I’m sure we didn’t invent it, but we always had the “Gravy Bowl” game where space allowed. We’d mark off the gridiron with flour, as lime was not readily accessible to us amateurs, and play until it was time to eat. Thanksgiving Day in New Orleans tends to be “climate moderate” in the fact that we never had snow, the temperature rarely got below 5o degrees Fahrenheit, and the rain gods smiled upon us with big toothy grins. Who remembers how many quarters we played? We never kept a record of wins and losses; it didn’t matter. It wasn’t about wins and losses, it was about playing a game.
No one had “invented the deep-fried turkey yet” and super markets didn’t provide ready-made spreads, so we were stuck with a good old home-baked turkey, gravy, stuffing, canned cranberry sauce and Aunt Dot’s File’ (pronounced fee-lay) gumbo. Just the thought of her gumbo brings a slight tear to my eye. I think it was my mother that made the oyster dressing. Never one for such a delicacy, I can only go by others what thought about it. It must have been good because it was prepared year after year, every year; just like Aunt Dot’s gumbo. Mince meat pie was always a regular after dinner also.
One thing I always remember is the wine. Usually a gallon of Ernest and Julio Gallo’s Hearty Burgundy. We didn’t know a Pinot Noir from a Pinata back then. Probably because we weren’t of Hispanic descent. We were a mixture of German, French, Irish, Italian and I’m not sure, but we may have had a bit of Manischewitz in us. But then most of the city of New Orleans was mixture of ethnicity, it’s just that we didn’t have many of the prejudices that many of the cities in the Northeast exhibited. People back in our parents youth just “got along” for the most part.
Of course there was always the mandatory pecan pie, the ubiquitous cherry pie and the ever popular pumpkin pie for dessert.
After dinner somehow all of the kids managed to find a room that we turned into some sort of a house of chance. Whether it was Bingo or BlackJack, we always had a great time. I remember one time my Dad came up the to Bingo game that was being held in my room and added a couple of bucks to the pot. It was what he called the “Gold Roll.” His father was a dealer in the gambling houses that dotted the city in his childhood, so I can only imagine that the term was a common one of the era.
Every now and some of us managed to put on a floor show complete with songs and dancing.
As we got older and were allowed to partake in the “adult beverages”, we forsook our childish habits of penny ante Bingo and engaged with the “other” adults in the art of more sophisticated of conversation. Who could forget exchanging opinions on a sundry of topics with “the Coach”, Mother’s older brother Jack? He wasn’t a real coach, but we called him that anyway. For obvious reasons I couldn’t tell you what those conversations were about. That’s not to say any of us became inebriated by any stretch of the imagination. Heaven forbid! But we were young men and women . . . and . . . well . . . I’ll just leave it at that.
Weeks later, we would all get together and do it all over again for Christmas . . . this time it was all about the presents more than the football and food!
A COUSIN’S PERSONAL LAMENT
As with anything, it all came to an end when some of us moved on because of careers. Thankfully all fifteen of us are still alive and to the best of my knowledge, healthy. Some of us have had our setbacks: Some were affected by Katrina in 2005, some of us have gone through our health scares; some worse than others. But we’re all still alive. We’re scattered now for the most part and don’t have a chance to see each other to reminisce about the watercolor memories.
Mickey, Cathy, Kenny, Tim (you did it Cuz, you beat the Big “C”), Pat; Guy, David, Robert, Margaret (you didn’t let Katrina keep you down), Dottie and Donna
“We will remember
Whenever we remember
The way we were”
And a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
Cathy, say “hello” to your mom for the Floridians, we love you all. You see, my Aunt Catherine is the last of the “Aunts and Uncles” and is clipping along doing just fine.
AWSOME AT BLOGGING BLOG AWARD
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