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Thanksgiving Vignettes

November 27, 2014


Thanksgiving Vignettes


Part 4.  A Cornucopia of Thanks for Family and Friends around the Thanksgiving Table


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



My earliest recollection of Thanksgiving was most likely the celebration in 1955 when I was five years old.  A large family gathering squeezed around the expansive table of my maternal grandmother.  The very high-ceiling room was a combination of kitchen, dining room, and sitting room behind the grocery store and to the north side of the bakery with its brick oven–which, after the death of my grandfather, was no longer in use.  In my mind’s eye, I see the room in a blur of blue, brown, and beige.  I remember nothing of the abundance of food, but I do remember an abundance of chatter.  As a very young child, I waited for a lull in the conversation; however, in my Italian-American family, the chance for a lull in the conversation was as likely as my holding on to the right end of the wishbone.  How distinctly I recall being overwhelmed by everyone’s talking!  My clearest recollection is thinking that I would never get a word in edgewise.


Of course, I do have family members who are masters of the fine art of conversation and who do love to talk.  Thus, having grown up in such an extended family, I find myself more comfortable around people who like to talk.  Yes, I am thankful for talkative family members and friends.


During the remainder of the 1950s and the 1960s, my extended family celebrated Thanksgiving at my Aunt Zita’s Italian restaurant.  Since the restaurant was closed on Thanksgiving Day, we ate in the largest room of the restaurant–the bar room.  Parallel with the oak bar, we pushed together at least three long tables so that about thirty or so of us could eat together.  Either my Aunt Zita and/or my dad would roast a big turkey.  While Aunt Zita always made the Italian-style, fried green beans and mashed potatoes, other family members carried in a variety of beautiful dishes for our Thanksgiving buffet.  Fran, the aunt of my cousin Carole, always brought oyster dressing, which I would never even think of tasting.  My mother, who would have marked her 100th birthday on November 25, would always bring my favorite–polenta dolce, an Italian cream of wheat dessert, breaded and fried.  Since she was known for her delicious and picture-perfect pies, she frequently brought to the gathering pumpkin , lemon meringue, or my sister and cousin Donald’s favorite chocolate pie.  In addition to carrying in the homemade pasta (noodles) and fresh cranberries, my mother always made her favorite from the 50s–a lemon Jell-O with shredded carrots, chopped celery, and crushed pineapple; she topped this double-recipe with walnut halves.  Not until I was much older did I develop a taste for this gelatin salad.


The bounty of roasting pans, baking dishes, and desserts were arranged on three large round tables in front of the south windows of the restaurant.  What a spread of photogenic delights!    When everyone had passed through the buffet line and sat down at the one very long table, we knew our entire family was truly blessed.  Most often, someone urged my older sister to say the grace-before-meals.  “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Bless us, oh Lord, and these, thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”  Those of us who were Catholic crossed ourselves again; then, we all ate the remarkably delicious food.  Sometimes, we waited a while to have dessert.


On one of these Thanksgivings, a rare November snow began to fall on our small Hoosier town.  By midafternoon, the view outside the restaurant’s large front windows was, amazingly, a Christmas-card snapshot of a winter wonderland of these Hoosier hills with the snow-covered Blanford Park in the background.  How I remember that picturesque snowflake splendor of a Thanksgiving Day when our extended family still lived within a short radius of each other!


May your Thanksgiving be blessed with good conversation, delicious food,

touching memories, and the love of family and friends!

Alice and Zoe


November 26, 2014, Wednesday



From → Uncategorized

  1. Happy Thanksgiving to you, Alice!

  2. You described so beautifully the memories that live in my heart, too, Alice! I also remember our mother playing a game that she called “Button, button, who’s got the button?” with all of us little cousins after our Thanksgiving dinner in Grandma Store’s big room. I loved that guessing game and revised it somewhat to play it with a coin to entertain Lee and Eric when they were little and we had a long wait somewhere.
    Love and best wishes on this Thanksgiving Day to you and Zoe,

  3. Thanksgiving Day was among the best family memories for me as our family and friends gathered to eat and play at Aunt Zita’s. I think my mother prepared the traditional dressing, while periodically watching the televised Thanksgiving parade. After filling our stomachs, it was always a special day when the cousins were treated to a new movie in the beautiful Indiana Theater in Terre Haute. Afternoon card games also seemed to be entertainment fun for the adults. I also remember a cousin sleepover at the end of the day. Thanks for the delightful details of a special period in our lives. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Carole–Thanks for your additional Thanksgiving remembrances. In addition to the younger cousins’ playing cards, we also had fun with drawing names for a Christmas gift exchange (although I cannot remember the price limit for each gift). Most often, we began the buffet when cousin Donald returned from hunting. Even though we always had turkey, I do remember Thanksgivings when Aunt Zita also prepared pheasant or rabbit. Enjoy your Florida Thanksgiving weekend! AZ

  4. Thank you, Alice, for sharing your memories. I hope you and your family had a nice holiday.

    • Thanks, Abbie. We did. I hope that your book signing went very well and that you are enjoying this holiday weekend. Take care–Alice

  5. Don permalink

    Alice Your blog is bringing our family back together in the form of memories. I sometimes can’t remember what I did this morning, but I can remember most of the things about which you write. I hope you all didn’t get too mad waiting for me for dinner.

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