Bonnie Henry: Thanksgiving memories: not exactly what Rockwell envisioned

2012-11-18T00:00:00Z 2014-07-01T16:53:06Z Bonnie Henry: Thanksgiving memories: not exactly what Rockwell envisionedBonnie Henry Special to The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Every year, someone trots out that Norman Rockwell painting showing a family from the 1940s gathered at the Thanksgiving table. Centerpiece, of course, is the turkey, all fat and golden, waiting to be carved.

Does any family in America really carve its turkey at the table, with everyone gathered 'round? And if so, are bibs and face masks passed out beforehand?

Don't know how it is in your house, but in ours, the turkey is carved in the kitchen. By the time the butchery is done, skin, flesh and even perhaps a bit of bone have managed to fly onto the countertops, floor, and even cabinet doors.

All our dog had to hear was the first whirr of the electric carving knife, and he was there. Seldom was he disappointed.

Ah well, to each his or her own tradition. When I was a child, we sometimes had Thanksgiving at my grandmother's house, just a few blocks away. My grandmother never had a dining room, so we all ate at her kitchen table, all the better because it was close to the stove.

My grandmother never sat at the table so much as she perched, ready to spring to the stove for more food, should someone's meal dare to reveal a speck of plate beneath all that food.

Seated at the head of the table was my grandfather, who never failed to declare in his best Oklahoma farmer's drawl, "We have it like this ever day."

During his later years, my grandfather took a liking to garlic salt, which he liberally sprinkled over his entire plate. Despite our entreaties to be placed elsewhere, it never failed that one of us grandkids would be assigned a place right next to my grandfather. Now that wouldn't have been so bad save for the fact that our grandfather always took out his false teeth and placed them next to his plate for the entire meal. "They're just for show," he would mumble through his mashed potatoes.

After the meal, we would all go home and work off the meal playing basketball or practicing our Hula-Hoop moves in the backyard.

That night, we'd pile in the car and head for Winterhaven, which back then was open from Thanksgiving through New Year's. One Thanksgiving, after one too many pieces of pie, I got sick in the car while we were still stuck in line oohing and aahing over the decorations.

After we got home, my father cleaned up the mess without a word. Dad, if you're out there somewhere, I hope you get an extra slice of the mince pie you so dearly loved this Thanksgiving.

Speaking of pies, making them seemed to fall on me, especially after we started traveling to my in-laws' for Thanksgiving. For 25 years, we literally went over the river, if not through the woods, to grandmother's house near Camp Verde, where smoke curled from the chimneys like something out of a Grandma Moses painting and giant oak leaves crunched beneath our footsteps.

Most years, my pies would arrive somewhat worse for wear, leaving a residue of crust all over the trunk of the car. No matter. We ate them anyway.

These days, I do the Thanksgiving dinner, leaning on those who came before me. Into the turkey goes my mother-in-law's recipe for oyster dressing, which will emerge hours later all steaming and savory. And into the refrigerator - but only temporarily - go the pecan and pumpkin pies almost like the ones my mother used to bake.

And onto the table will go the turkey, safely carved out of view in the kitchen. Missing from that table, however, will be my grandfather's teeth.

And for that - much as we miss him - we will truly give thanks.

Bonnie Henry's column runs every other Sunday. Contact her at Bonniehenryaz@gmail.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Follow the Arizona Daily Star