Staying home for Thanksgiving

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Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go.
We never went over the river. Or through the woods.
Or even to Grandmother’s house.
At least not on Thanksgiving.
Christmas, maybe.
But not Thanksgiving.
Most of my mother’s family lived close by, so they came to our house because it was less trouble than if they had it at theirs.
My mother’s mother, Grandma Jessie, lived in town, in a house built by, or at least under the supervision of, her brother-in-law, “Dub.”  When Daddy was off in Europe defeating Hitler, he got Mama to get “Dub” to build a garage for the car they were trying to make last through the war.
He built the garage six inches too short.
When Hitler was whupped and Daddy got home, he told “Dub” that he would have to find a way to stretch the garage or shorten the car.
Uncle “Dub” was not amused.
Grandma Jessie’s house was right across the street from the Methodist Church so she could attend whenever they opened the doors. But it was too small for a Thanksgiving gathering, so it fell my family’s lot to host the dinner.
Dinner was always at noon.
At night it was supper, just like it was for Jesus.
The Last Supper, not the Last Dinner.
But I digress.
So everyone came out to our house.
Not that there was many.
Mama, Daddy, me and brother Bill.
Grandma Jessie and “Buck,” my bachelor uncle who lived with his Mama. He said he took care of her.  We felt it was the other way around.
Aunt Stella and her husband Curtis.
And “Little Mary,”
“Little Mary” was our old maid cousin.  She started coming after her Mama, “Big
Mary,” died. “Little Mary” was rich as Knossos, but lived like a bag lady. She collected stray cats, incarcerated them in back yard cages she called the “Kitty Motel,” and named them after Confederate generals.
When it comes to eccentricities, my family stands second to none.
Mama cooked a ham and a turkey
Everybody else contributed something. “Little Mary” brought a dusty tin of Scottish shortbread.  Same tin every year. No one ever dared open it.
“Little Mary” and Curtis were big University of Alabama fans, though the closest either came to a UA classroom was when they walked through campus one day.
During the Bear Bryant era they took delight in harassing my Daddy, a fiercely loyal Auburn graduate.  Once they went a little too far. Daddy got mad, and told Mama if she ever invited them back Thanksgiving would be like biscuits.
Then he took his plate and retreated to his Poutin’ House.
I was relatively young at the time, so connecting biscuits to Thanksgiving confused me.
So after everyone was gone and Daddy had returned, I asked Mama about the biscuit remark.
“Have you ever seen me make biscuits,” she asked.
I confessed that I hadn’t.
So she told the story.
“Right after we married I fixed your Daddy a fine breakfast, including biscuits, just like Grandma Jessie used to make.”
I knew Grandma Jessie’s biscuits well. They were about the size of a silver dollar and not much thicker.  Baked solid, they crumbled when you tried to cut them open.
That was what newly-wed Mama served newly-wed Daddy that fateful morning.
According to her account, Daddy took one look and asked what those hard, flat things were.
Mama told him.
Then he dramatically picked one up, held it over his empty plate, and let it fall with a clatter.
“I snatched up that pan of biscuits,” Mama said, “and told him that if he ever wanted biscuits again, he’d have to fix them himself.  From that moment on, I was out of the biscuit business.”
I saw the connection.  If Mama ever invited “Little Mary” and Curtis again, Daddy was getting out of the Thanksgiving business.
That revelation brought other things into focus.
Now I understood why when Daddy brought in biscuits he had baked out at the  Poutin’ House, Mama ignored them.
It was a Mexican stand-off.
Until progress intervened.
When canned (“whop”) biscuits appeared on the grocery shelves, Mama bought some, baked some and presented them at breakfast.  Daddy picked one up and without the drama that had driven Mama out of the biscuit business, he swathed it with butter and ate.
With that concession Mama was back in the biscuit business.
And when Thanksgiving rolled around again, Mama warned offending guests that any mention of football would put an end to the celebration.    And from that day forward, on Thanksgiving, we and ours, you and yours:
Gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known;
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing;
Sing praises to His name: He forgets not his own.
I hope your Thanksgiving was merry and bright.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at hjackson@cableone.net.

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