A THANKSGIVING FEAST 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
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
“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