Thanksgiving in Gary, Indiana

Gary, Indiana, approximately 6am on September 5, 1948, I entered the world.  The proud parents were, Horace and Mabel.  Waiting back at home were my six other siblings.  Three boys and three girls.  I seem to always break the odds. Two and one-half months before Thanksgiving.  

It's 2017 and I can still remember the joy, peace and fullness of appetite.  I can still remember the love I felt being surrounded by MY FAMILY.  

Being the "baby" brought its joys and tears.  Sometimes I still feel like I am being carried.  I don't think I walked for years.  If you wanted to get out of work just "grab" the baby.  

My earliest memories of Thanksgiving were feeling crowded. There were already nine of us, including my parents.  On top of that, my father's sisters and brothers came to celebrate with us.  All in a two bedroom house with a basement.  The basement is a whole other story. It wasn't until my folks added four more rooms on the back of the house that I remember sitting at a table to eat.  

My mother was a pastry chef at Hotel Gary. Known for lodging presidents when they came to visit.  So, we always had plenty of every pie you could name at Thanksgiving.  Peach, sweet potato, apple, chocolate cream, banana cream, lemon meringue and those you couldn't.  

I grew up thinking you had desert with every meal.  Breakfast you had Alaga syrup. Lunch you had apple tarts. And dinner always pie or cake.  

But Thanksgiving was "turkey time."  It was family time.  Everyone was happy.  Everyone was full and no one complained about fresh napkins or chipped drinking glasses. If the turkey took longer to cook, no problem. The appetizer was conversation and there was plenty of that.  

We weren't rich.  Remember two bedrooms and a basement.  But, we were rich in culture.  We were thankful to all be alive and healthy.  We were thankful.  

The kitchen table wasn't for sitting at but for all the food placed upon it. The stove kept the hot food hot and the refrigerator kept cold food and drinks cold.  The ice cream was in the ice cream maker. Well! Whatever was left after whoever churned. 

Everyone had something to do to make Thanksgiving special. Most of the time, the snow had already settled and stayed 'til Spring.  But, snow or no snow, everyone got safely together for that special day at our house. 

My mother's family lived in Arkansas and usually could not battle the traffic and weather to visit.  My father's family lived only a few blocks away. There was only one cousin in Gary at that time. But you would have thought there were more. 

We made TV trays out of the cardboard boxes that brought all the food from the store.  Old news papers were our table cloths. Shirt sleeves were your napkins. Some sat on the couch, chairs, or floor.  No one complained.  It didn't matter.  We were together. 

All the while, the men watched tv.  And the women catered to the men and children.  

After Thanksgiving dinner, and cleanup, which took probably as long as cooking the meal each family would leave one by one, as if on cue.  My mother and father would retire to their rooms.  All of us children would prepare to retire for the night.  

I was only nine when my oldest sister got married and moved out.  Then my oldest brother joined military. Little by little everyone either went on to college, military or just grew up and moved on with their lives. 

But what I will always remember about Thanksgiving in Gary, Indiana is the comfort of feeling crowded and cozy.  I miss the noise and the laughter.  

I am thankful for parents who worked hard to provide for their children - Mother as a pastry chef and Dad as a US Steel mill worker.  They enjoyed providing for their children. Making memories.  Teaching me that it's not the pies, stuffing or turkey.  It's the people.  It's the ones you love who make family.  

Happy Thanksgiving.