When I was growing up, we usually had Thanksgiving dinner at our house. The house was bursting at the seams, with various people in attendance from year to year, but Maw Maw Wilson and Maw Maw and Paw Paw George were always there.
Mother cooked a big turkey, made cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes & giblet gravy, corn, cherry pies. Maw Maw George brought sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, green beans simmered for hours with fatback, pumpkin pies, a three-layer cake, (oftentimes jam). Maw Maw Wilson brought roast pork (so tender you could cut it with a fork), turnip greens, and apple pies, the likes of which I have never tasted since.
Afterward, the men retired to the living room, lighting up their pipes and cigarettes as they settled back in their chairs for the afternoon. The kids rushed out to play, and the women stayed at the dining table, lingering over coffee and dessert.
One sunny Thanksgiving day, when I was about nine, my brothers and sisters were playing baseball. I didn't want to play. I was no good at it anyway. So I stayed inside, skulking here and there, evesdropping on the adults.
There was nothing much happening in the living room; the men were talking about farming and politics. The women talked about politics, too, and they reminisced. But my ears really perked up when I heard more interesting tidbits: Geraldine had a spell last night. It was a bad one, Toy said. Node Morgan's wife ran off and left her kids. Poor Miss Eda had one of her nerve attacks in church last Sunday. She's not doing any good.
"What's a nerve attack?" I said, "Where did Node Morgan's wife run off to?"
"Brenda, what are you doing in here?" Mother said, "Go on outside and play with the other kids."
"You need to get out there in the sunshine," Maw Maw George said, "You look kind of peaked."
I rushed to my bedroom and gazed in the mirror, searching my face. Was it serious? Did I look sick? Outside, I could hear the smack of the bat and my brothers and sisters cheering.
"Come on, Brenda," Terry called through the window, "We need another player!"
"I told you I don't want to play!"
And then I thought about my peakedness. Maybe baseball would help.
I rushed outside, where I was soon up to bat. Terry tried to show me how to hold it, but I grabbed the bat and held it with both hands directly in front of me.
"I'll hold it however I want!" I said, "Just throw it!"
He suddenly spun around and threw the ball.
I dodged, but the it hit me on the arm. So I threw the bat down and headed toward the house.
"Where you going?" said Mary Ellen.
"The game isn't over," Pitty Pat said.
"I don't feel like playing. I'm peaked."
"You are not!" said Mary Ellen, hands on her hips, "You're just using that for an excuse!"
Pitty Pat stared at me, a thoughtful look on her face. "You don't look peaked."
"I'll tell you what she is," called Terry, "She's a housecat. A peaked-looking housecat!"
* * *
Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends. And God bless.