A Thanksgiving of Remember When!
By Lisa Hamilton
Undoubtedly every year, somewhere between Aunt Mary’s famous mashed potatoes and Marie Calendar’s warm pumpkin pie, the unspoken tradition of “remember when….” begins the belly laughter around the table commencing the opening ceremony of Thanksgiving: A walk down memory lane.
Just as every apple pie needs a dollop of vanilla ice cream, what would Thanksgiving be without the ritual of retelling childhood memories over and over again? Anticipating our own family gathering, being one of six, we had our own favorite stories archived.
THE BOWL OF OKRA
“Remember the bowl of Okra,” Kurt, our older brother bursted out as each and every one of us, leaning back in our chairs, pounded our fists on the table with tears of hysteria.
It is common knowledge that okra with its gooey snotty center, is the God forsaken vegetable that must have been created just as God sneezed. Downright disgusting, frying it is the only possible remedy attempting to disguise this vegetable gone awry. Steaming it instead, mom slyly passed out a portion to each of us, prodding “here you go kids, eat up,” persuading us like a double agent.
Was this mom or did she go undercover as Health Nazi?
Sacrificing our youngest sister to test the first slimy bite, spitting it out she bawled, “This tastes like a bowl of boogers!” Suddenly, survival instinct took over. Abandoning her to the bowl of boogers we jumped up and ran, leaving our poor little sister crying at the table with a mouth full of slime.
From that day forward, maybe as our karma payback, a bowl of okra was the family punishment. Rather than being threatened with a more civilized form of restriction, ours was more savage.
If you do not get your chores done, blackmailed mom, a bowl of okra!
I’LL DRINK THAT WITH A SPOON, PLEASE!
Laughingly reminiscing we all turned to mom who sat smirking eating another bite of pie.
“Wait, wait, remember the protein drinks,” chimed in my brother as if to top the last story.
“More like protein chews,” my older sister added cracking up.
Endeavoring to enhance our immune system in case we needed to survive a global meltdown, mom made us her special protein drink designed for optimum health. What started as acceptable, year by year, became unbearable. Our simple protein drink that was drinkable, morphed into a thick paste of cod liver oil and mashed liver tablets which had to be eaten with a spoon.
Yet, every morning she presented us with a choice. “Good morning kids! Do you want pancakes or a protein drink?’
Collectively, the choice was obvious,“Pancakes!”
“Well, how about a protein drink today?” she questioned with an already established answer. The ritual went on day after day with hope deferred of ever getting a normal unhealthy breakfast. Until one morning our subtle revolt surfaced. “Mom,” we all wondered,“have you tasted this? Where’s yours?”
“Darlings, I always have mine before you,” she explained. Challenging her to drink it in front of us, we handed her a spoon to authenticate her claim. As soon as she took her first gulp, she beelined for the toilet in an emergency evacuation chased by six kids. Finally, exonerated it was warm syrupy pancakes ever after.
Yet, one or our favorite stories we tell every year was about our beloved babysitter Nancy, who really wasn’t a baby-sitter, nor did she ever clean the house. In fact, Nancy weighted about 250 pounds and left candy wrappers all over the floor as she watched all her favorite soap operas, especially General Hospital during which we were forbidden to talk. To her the day of Luke and Laura’s wedding was as sacred as Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s nuptials.
“Remember her chasing us around with the fly swatter!” we laughed. Because her threats were futile, she changed her tactics. ‘If I catch you, I’ll sit on you!”
“No, Nancy, No,” too young not to believe her, thinking we would surely die if we did not do what she said. Looking back, she ordered us from her cushy T.V. chair, and mom never knew otherwise.
As Thanksgiving approaches yet another year, I am sure we will retell all the same stories. Nevertheless, it isn’t really the stories that are so special, it is the bond that gets stronger and stronger each time we retell it. A cherished tradition that will never be broken.
It is all of our remember whens… that is part of the collage that makes us family.