rom my seat at the Thanksgiving table — a card table set up in the living room for us kids and covered with a harvest gold, paper tablecloth — I can see my grandmother’s Pilgrim salt-and-pepper shakers, a once-a-year switch from her Depression-glass Anchor Hocking ones, on the kitchen table, where the food is laid out, buffet-style. I can see the turkey, a 24-pound whopper, perfectly cooked and sliced with her electric knife on the sterling silver platter that she let me polish with Wright’s silver cream. I see two sheet pans full of dressing, cut into squares. Bowls piled with mashed potatoes, squash casserole, green beans. There’s a pottery stoneware pitcher of sweet tea — if I look at the bottom, I know I’ll see a “Jugtown” stamp — and I can see the electric percolator set up on the counter beside the sink; the adults refill their coffee cups all day. There are pies — pumpkin, sweet potato, chocolate chess — on the counter, too, next to a thawing container of Cool Whip, a food that didn’t even exist 10 years ago, but that my grandfather is so taken with, he eats it by the spoonful.
My younger cousins sit at the table with me, and we watch the parades on television while we eat, but with the volume off so that we can make out the conversation in the dining room. I hear my mom and dad laughing, the occasional flick of a cigarette lighter. I hear a chair scoot back; my grandmother’s long beads click against the edge of the table as she gets up to flip the record — Mantovani’s Golden Hits — on the sideboard turntable. I hear my uncles chattering about politics, my grandfather talking about golf. I catch the names Jimmy Carter and Jack Nicklaus.
From my seat at the Thanksgiving table, years later, after my grandfather died and my grandmother moved from her house to a retirement apartment owned by Asheboro Friends Church, I can see the paper turkey centerpiece from the Hallmark shop that just opened in the newly built Randolph Mall, where, now that I have my driver’s license, I hang out on weekends. I can see the turkey, a 12-pounder, in its roasting pan; my grandmother keeps her silver boxed up and in storage now. We all fit around one table, and the conversation drifts to politics and sports. I catch the names Ronald Reagan and Michael Jordan at UNC.
From my seat at the Thanksgiving table — at my mother’s house now — I can see a white pillar candle, lit and burning bright. I can see the turkey — just a breast, three pounds — waiting for us on the counter in the kitchen, along with a small pan of dressing, my grandmother’s recipe. And instead of sweet tea, my mom and I share a bottle of wine.
We don’t talk about politics or sports, although we do turn on a football game. We like hearing the sounds of a crowd in the background, how the rising voices of celebration on TV fill in the empty spaces, and although my grandmother would never have had any of the wine, my mom and I raise our glasses and toast to all the memories, grateful that we’ve made so many. And at some point in the afternoon, my mom will knock on her neighbors’ doors or make a few phone calls to the people for whom Thanksgiving has become so sparse, and I’ll hear her say, “Come join us, honey. We’ve got plenty.” That, we do.
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