Thanksgivings From My Childhood

Homemade sweaters and toy shotguns. My Nebraska childhood in a nutshell.

Thanksgiving circa 1989.

It was always the table leaves that pissed me off first.

Something about the task of having to go down to the creepy basement, sneak around the hundreds of land mines in my mom’s “holiday storage room,” and dig out those long pieces of wood so we could extend the dining table two additional seats, just annoyed the shit out of me.

“I’ll eat on my lap, I don’t need to sit at the table,” my laziness would offer, but would always immediately get rejected.

Bringing up the wood planks was almost as bad as bringing up the “fancy folding chairs.”

“Did you get the leaves yet?” My mom would ask, already knowing the answer.

“I have to finish the turkey cookies first,” I’d bark back, a classic stall tactic.

In truth, the turkey cookies were a far cry from a chore, but more like the best activity ever. There was something so enjoyable about slapping a mini reeses and some candy corn on a fudge striped Keebler cookie. And those Keebler cookies were a delicacy in themselves, they only made their appearance around the Wolfe home once a year- Thanksgiving, naturally.

“Leaves now, because then you have to set the table,” my mom demanded.

Oh hells no. I was about to come back with a rebuttal but then she added, “with the nice china.” And I knew.

I knew without even looking at her to see that twinkle in her eye that it had officially begun. My mom was in holiday mode.

It made sense, right? It was the night before Thanksgiving at 10 p.m. and she was sewing together a new table cloth whilst also hot-glueing together pinecones and twigs to be made into “name cards” for each plate setting, just in case our relatives weren’t quite sure where to sit.

And yet every year the return of Holiday Mom surprised me.

I wouldn’t be able to finish my cookies, or the Schweddy Balls SNL sketch I was gleefully watching while doing my “work.” Nope, I had just been given a task even worse than bringing up the fancy folding chairs; I had to set the table with the NICE CHINA.

I never understood the point of “nice china.” It was used but twice a year, on people we saw but twice a year? If it was that nice, why not use it daily, with the people you saw daily?

And let’s not forget the nice forks and spoons- the aristocrats of my mom’s silverware, if you will. They were too good to be kept with the other silverware, instead they were kept in a weird velvet lined briefcase holder, stored in my mom’s hutch. The hutch that was home to my mom’s sad looking judgmental figurines; also known as the Precious Moments collection. Also known as that precious moment I’d hastily pull on the hutch door too hard (which was always stuck shut) and break a figurine or two, usually the sad girl holding the sad lambs.

But I digress.

I think what made me so upset about setting the table was the fact that it didn’t matter how well I did it, if I put the fork in the right spot (I MEAN LEFT), or folded the napkin correctly (a wadded up ball is more festive) because no matter what, Holiday Mom would always reset it.

Holiday Mom says she wants help, but does she? Does she, really?

With the table leaves and folding chairs, yes. But everything else? I’m not so sure. Sure, she wants you to offer help, but that’s about it. Because Holiday Mom has a holiday vision. A very clear holiday vision. And no one must get in the way of that, because Thanksgiving is only the start of it.

It’s the opener for Christmas. And if the opener goes well, God only knows what the final act could bring! Perhaps the best Christmas ever? A write-up in “Best Holiday Mom of the Year” magazine? The possibilities were endless.

But if it doesn’t go well…. actually, let’s not even go there. Because my mom, the ultimate Holiday Mom, pulled off Thanksgiving every single year when I was a kid without a hitch. Who needs sleep when you can stay up until 4:00 a.m. making a centerpiece out of figs, pearls, and determination? Forgot to defrost the turkey? Doesn’t matter, one look from Holiday Mom and that turkey will defrost itself in no time.

Mashed potatoes? Done, not a clump to be found.
Stuffing? So good even someone like me who doesn’t eat stuffing might take a bite.
Cheesy biscuits? In the oven.
Cranberry relish? Well no, but only because my dad probably forgot to buy the cranberries. He forgets them every year. Literally, every single year.

All that to say, the holidays are officially one week away, friends! And with that, so are the Holiday Moms. God bless them for making the holidays as good (and just little scary) as they’ve ever been.

*This post was approved by my mom before publishing. I’m not an idiot.*