Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Season of Thanks

It's my favorite time of year ... the last few weeks before Thanksgiving!

When I was a little girl - perhaps 5 or 6 years old - thoughts of Thanksgiving also included thoughts of my birthday.  No matter how close it came to the holiday, it seemed the hustle and bustle, the autumn decorations and the extra baking somehow were all meant to extend my birthday into a week-long celebration! 

Momma was a wonderful pie maker, and she would prepare pumpkin, apple and/or pecan pies for the Thanksgiving holiday.  As a young child, I would climb up on the old kitchen stool to watch her.  And if I was very, very good, she would even let me help a bit.  The plop of smooth pumpkin mix into the pie pan was one of my favorite moments!  I'd watched her add all the ingredients -- a can of Pet milk, eggs, spices and sugar.  After mixing it well, Momma would use a spatula to smooth the pie filling just so, then into the hot oven her pies would go, and within 30 minutes, their spicy smells wafted throughout the entire house.

It was after baking a bit and the pie fillings "settled" that our mother added a pretty decoration to each pie. While she rolled out the leftover dough, I got to choose cookie cutters and cut dough to decorate the center of each pie.  There were five Thanksgiving designs to choose from -- pumpkin, leaf, acorn, turkey and pilgrim.  After they were place on top of the pie, it was slipped back into the oven to finish baking. Half the fun of going outside was coming back in again to sniff the wonderful aroma.
Oh, my -- such sweet memories!  

Once those beautiful pies were done, Momma would grab a potholder and slide them out of the oven oh-so-carefully to cool on a side counter.  Then it was *my* turn to bake.  With our wooden rolling pin, I'd smash down and roll out bits of leftover dough scraps for a special treat -- yummy cinnamon and sugar strips! Melted butter went on them first, then a mixture of cinnamon and sugar was sprinkled on top.  After a brief time in the oven, they became a crispy, savory treat that were shared with my siblings. Yum!

I carried on those same Thanksgiving traditions with our children and now do the same with our grandchildren ...  

Mom's recipe for homemade pie crust is still my crust of choice.  It was also a tradition to let our children (and now our grandchildren) help choose a cookie-cutter shaped like a pilgrim, pumpkin, turkey, leaf or acorn to adorn the pie. And *if* there are any scraps of dough left over, they can help me make cinnamon strips to munch on while the pies are baking.

I look back on so many precious memories and realize that our Mom was an artist at heart, whether sewing clothing for her daughters or planning a flower garden, turning a house into a home or baking holiday pies -- she liked to make each work of love so that it was unique.  Momma was an artist in every sense of the word.

Take time in the weeks ahead to plan your holiday, express your love verbally, make lots of happy memories and set a festive table for your meal together.  Involve your grandchildren -- they can cut or color paper leaves to hang, help design place cards for the table and/or make a paper chain of autumn-colored paper to drape from the ceiling.  When we let them get involved with preparations, they feel part of the family tradition, and that's a good thing.

Holidays are a wonderful time to recall happy memories and make new ones.  
This year, why not include a special display about your family heritage?  Display old letters and photos or favorite books of "the good ol' days."  Thanksgiving is a great time to refresh everyone's memories about those family members who have already passed on.  Share stories - funny and serious - that let your children and grands get to know their great and great-great grandparents and the impact they had on family memories and traditions.

It doesn't take fine china and silver or an expensive meal to make your dinner guests feel special on Thanksgiving Day.  What matters is presenting the meal with your sincere welcome and a thankful heart. When that happens, your hospitality and your meal will both be remembered with appreciation.

Happy Autumn, everyone, and a blessed Thanksgiving ... 

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