Grandmother’s China Plates and Other Thanksgiving Memories
When I was younger, my family and I would make the trek from Arkansas up to Cape Girardeau, Missouri to spend Thanksgiving with my grandparents. At the time, I took for granted that I was able to spend one of the major holidays surrounded by family, but now, as an adult, I see how special it was.
I remember waking up to the smell of bacon grease and freshly-baked biscuits, my Meemaw and Pawpaw having woken up hours earlier to cook breakfast before immediately preparing the Thanksgiving courses. The turkey, of course, would have already been in the oven for a couple hours, having been thoroughly basted before any of us had even stepped into the kitchen that morning.
Once I had my first serving of bacon, eggs, biscuits, and homemade gravy, I would sit, alongside my parents and brother to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the sunroom next to the kitchen, the morning sun peeking out, barely awake like the rest of us.
As we watched the larger-than-life floats drift across the screen, my family and I would barely speak, but we knew that was fine. We were on vacation, so we had the luxury of knowing we didn’t have to do anything. We would stay planted in my grandparents’ house all day, just eating, and that was enough.
Once the Thanksgiving courses were ready, we would gather around my grandparents’ oak dining table, blue and white China plates prepared to be loaded down with the goods: Turkey (of course), dressing, green beans, buttered rolls, and (even though my Dad was the only one to partake) cranberry sauce. For dessert? Plenty of pumpkin- and pecan pie.
The China plates will always hold a special place for me, as they beckon to a time when I could just be a child, without bills, without expectations, without real adult problems. I also associate them with my Meemaw, who would tell stories about the Empress whose life was depicted on the plates. Pointing to one of the pagodas, she would say, “This is where the Empress would go to pray for her subjects,” or, if pointing to one of the outside scenes, “This is where the Empress would go when she needed time to think.” It was like we had lunch AND a show.
Looking back, this was one of my fondest childhood memories. This was our tradition — relaxing to watch New York City celebrate Thanksgiving, miles away, while stuffing our faces, our cares long forgotten. That’s what makes this year feel full-circle, as it will be my first year celebrating Thanksgiving only a few yards away from the Macy’s Thanksgiving floats. Though I won’t be surrounded by family, I look forward to celebrating in one of the most fascinating cities in the world, and that’s reason enough to be thankful.
I hope everyone who’s reading has a great Thanksgiving this year. Whether you know it or not, you have something to be thankful for: Breath in your lungs, a place to sleep, food, you name it. As long as we never lose the capacity to see these things, we’ll always have a reason to smile, to laugh.
From NYC, Happy Thanksgiving. Until next time.