I have so many good memories of Thanksgiving. As far back as I can remember Thanksgiving has always been a time of family, friends, and especially good food.
I grew up in an extended family of good cooks, including my father. He loved to bake cakes from scratch and so most of the time there was always a cake sitting on the kitchen counter.
At Thanksgiving he always made a coconut cream cake and a seven-layer chocolate cake, two of my favorites. We grew a garden, which meant we almost always had fresh vegetables of some sort depending on the time of year. Just so you know, I did not get that particular trait by the way.
My mother was a very good cook. Ironically, as the story goes, she had been raised the baby in the family and did no cooking. When she and my father married, she couldn’t even boil water.
However, she learned really quickly, because she made the best potato salad I’ve ever eaten (also verified by my cousin Buddy) along with a host of other dishes including fried chicken.
On occasion we would gather as a larger family to have Thanksgiving with aunts and uncles at someone’s home. Those were always fun because everyone cooked their favorite dishes, which meant a variety of food and especially desserts, which were my favorites.
My mother had two desserts that she was exceptionally good at: oatmeal peanut butter cookies and chocolate fudge. They also showed up at Christmas, as well.
Thanksgiving would mean the opening of hunting season, which meant my dad and I would be in the woods before daylight. Not 30 minutes before daylight, by the way, but at least an hour early.
My dad was a big breakfast eater. I can remember especially on the day we would go hunting to wake up to the sound and smell of bacon and eggs cooking.
My dad loved to hunt squirrels. He had his father’s old single shot 12-gauge shotgun, and I had a 410-gauge. My dad loved to just sit by some old oak tree and wait on the squirrels which is what he expected me to do.
It’s hard for a 7- or 8-year-old to sit still for that long, by the way, especially waiting on the sun to come up.
He would always have me sitting where he could see me, and I was forbidden to shoot anything on the ground or lower than about ten feet. In other words, the squirrel had to be fairly high up in the tree. Another stipulation was that I had better have at least one squirrel per shell.
In other words, if I missed, I would need to kill two with the next shot. A pretty hard proposition I learned fairly quickly.
I remember many times watching the sun come up through the trees and then seeing the squirrels as they scurried around.
When my dad shot that 12 gauge it sounded like an explosion. Then everything would get eerily quiet for a few minutes before the squirrels were back on the move and the birds started back chirping. By 8 a.m. we would be headed home with a nice mess of squirrels.
Usually at noon we would gather to eat, and eat we would do. There are not many feelings as good as the way you feel after a big Thanksgiving meal.
Although it doesn’t seem like it, especially in these trying times, we do have a lot to be thankful for this year, so “Happy Thanksgiving,” to you and your family.
Byron Spires is a retired newspaper editor. He has written dozens of short stories and serials in the Havana Herald. He recently published “The Curious Life of Marci Bell” in a series of three books. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.