Thanksgiving Memories

Yesterday I enjoyed reading American bloggers’ sweet and often beautiful posts on Thanksgiving Day.  I decided to wait until “Black Friday” to share some of my American holiday memories out of respect for those people.  🙂  You’ll see what I mean if you keep reading.

I have already mentioned that after her first visit to the U.S., my Norwegian mother, much to my American father’s chagrin (and the complete puzzlement of her Lutheran family back in Norway), converted and became a practicing, dyed-in-the-proverbial-wool Jehovah’s Witness (JW).  Later back in Norway once again, he asked her to stop the JWs but she threatened to stay in Norway with the children.  So, happy family together once more 😦 we headed back to the states.  (For the rest of their marriage, though living in the same house they had separate lives and we children were left in the middle.)

But I digress.  Good JWs (and my mother was probably one of the most pious and sanctimonious JWs you could meet), celebrated no “worldly” and “unchristian” holidays (at least in those days).  Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, 4th of July, birthdays – name it – were forbidden.  Now to my father, of course, there was no problem with the holidays, but remember they lived pretty separate lives and, sadly (for me at least), my father left the bulk of childrearing and “family culture” decisions to my mother.

However, from time to time my father would put his size 13 foot down and insist my mother and the children accompany him to a holiday meal at his grandmother’s house.  My mother was compelled to “obey” him (hey, he might have been “worldly” [a JW term for non-JWs] but he was still head of the household), but did so with a visible distaste and reluctance.  I remember one Thanksgiving in particular.

As we piled in the car, my mother set herself firmly in the front seat and knit, with a serious look on her face and muttering in Norwegian.  We kids knew better than to disturb her; she wasn’t a good knitter and most of her Norwegian was merely counting (though I’m not sure my father knew that).  They ignored each other (as usual):  he determined to have a good day, she determined to not sin.

A couple of silent tense hours later we pulled up to Greatgrandmother and Greatgrandfather Gentry’s farm house.  My father, very excited, jumped out of the car as soon as he pulled up the parking brake.  My mother took that opportunity to fill us with holy spirit.  She turned around and leaned over the seat and, waving a knitting needle in our faces, said sternly in Norwegian, “We have to be here, but don’t eat the turkey, cranberries, pumpkin pie and yams: Those are the symbols of Thanksgiving.”

Of course that left only mashed potatoes, salad, rolls and green beans for us “real” Christians.  Yum.

After dinner at one point I was alone in the kitchen admiring parfait glasses filled with some sort of sparkly cranberry dessert concoction and I REALLY wanted to taste it.  So I quickly grabbed a glass, hid somewhere, and gulped down the dessert.  For the rest of the day I sick with fear as I waited for god to strike me dead.

I first tried pumpkin pie when I was 19 years old.  I thought it was wonderful.  Still do.  And according to Thor and the rest of the family, I make great pumpkin pies!

I think I will nibble on the last piece!


About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
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18 Responses to Thanksgiving Memories

  1. Pingback: Lasting Memories | tina7serrano's Blog

  2. lionsdaughter says:

    This post is fabulously well written. LOVE the story, could feel the tension between your parents, and I love that you did indulge in some contraband Thanksgiving dessert. Hoping you are shedding more (most?) of that JW guilt and basking in peacefulness (and pumpkin pie – extra good with real whipped cream!).


  3. Is there such a thing as “too much” pumpkin pie?! It seems like it should be classified as a vegetable dish! 🙂 Thanks … tonight or early tomorrow morning I start pie baking!


  4. Wow, you poor thing. It’s amazing what people do to each other in the name of religion! I’m sure their god is thrilled. Hope you have a lovely, stress free (and healthy!) day on Monday. Don’t eat *too much* pumpkin pie.


  5. I agree; attitude can even all sorts of “unfun” appearing events quite enjoyable. I hope you got the last piece! 🙂


  6. Thank you on both counts! I am enjoying the holiday weekend immensely!


  7. I’ve only met one person who doesn’t love pumpkin pies (my son-in-law), and it’s a texture thing, not a taste thing. His mom, however, bakes amazing pumpkin bars that he eats with relish!


  8. I’m starting to wonder if adults have more not-so-good happy memories than good ones. Hmmm. I’m glad, though, that you and I have broken the not-happy holiday routine!


  9. Vegan pumpkin pie – what do you use in place of the eggs and dairy product. (I’d be interested in trying!)


  10. Well, the flu swept through the family so we’re actually celebrating all together on Monday. But Thor and I had a nice day just the two of us – basically ate some baked chicken and most of a pumpkin pie. 🙂


  11. Socioknit says:

    Totally hilarious; I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, which I am very, very far away from now as an Atheist. My mom is a real nut about the religion, finding ways to participate in Thanksgiving without saying she is. Just like how we always went to dinner on our birthdays, but we didn’t celebrate birthdays. I think she just uses the religion to have an excuse to be paranoid, sexist, racist and other things, personally. I have a awful lot to say about JWs, when I am able. 🙂

    Hope everything was wonderful this holiday! 😀


  12. Nothing but hugs for you. Glad your recent Thanksgivings are warm, fulfilling occasions!


  13. Northern Narratives says:

    Thank you for writing this post. I am sorry that as children you were stuck in the middle. I have a few wonderful Thanksgiving memories and a few that were messy with family divisions. I also love pumpkin pies.


  14. Sheryl Evans says:

    My growing up Holiday memories are not happy ones either. Most family get together’s ended in a drunken brawl, but still every year we had to go. My Adult memories of when my children were little & we celebrated are much better. My kids & g’kids are living in different states now so holidays are less noisy, but enjoyable just the same.


  15. ethgran says:

    I love Thanksgiving but this year we took a trip (nobody to share a feast with) to visit some Floridian springs and an Indian site and ate a lovely Pork roast dinner at small restaurant in Crystal Springs called the Boathouse. The food wasn’t particularly good and being in a noisy restaurant with a bunch of old things like ourselves wasn’t the best but we were determined to have a good time and we did. Funny how attitude changes everything. The one item we couldn’t do without was a pumpkin pie so I bought one at our local grocery and it was good. I am about to get my last portion before the old man finishes it up!


  16. Pumpkin pie has always been my favorite. I used to have pumpkin pie instead of cake when I was young. We’re having Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow when our son will be here, and I just baked a vegan pumpkin pie for him, and the regular pumpkin pies are in the oven as we type. Thanksgiving is the best holiday of all. It’s all about family and foot. 🙂


  17. Thank you! Yes, I learned how to enjoy the holidays, even if I don’t “feel” them. It was completely different for me. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. This year we had a quiet one because the rest of the family got the flu, but Thor and I had a lovely day. (I took the picture of the tree on our walk yesterday.) And we’re having the “real” Thanksgiving on Monday with the whole gang! 🙂


  18. Thank you for a terrific post. I’m interested in family stories that combine dealing with religious differences, given what I have with my 2 sons. Happy Thanksgiving- glad you’re able to share the holiday with your family and your pie looks yummy!


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