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 think I will nibble on the last piece!