Thanksgiving in 1956

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It was 1956. I was in first grade.

My mom had her pretty apron on. The kitchen was filled with brown paper grocery bags. Mom was buzzing around the kitchen with purpose. Her list was on the round Formica table with a pencil sitting next to it so she could check off each task as she completed it.

As Dad chopped the giant pile of walnuts and cut the cranberries and apricots, he would sneak samples to each of us kids. We kids had very important jobs like picking out bowls from under the cupboard and searching for ingredients from the brown paper bags. Mom had a way of making each of us feel like we were a very important part of this day.

Dad bathed the turkey in the sink and we all watched in both amazement and horror as he pulled out feather quills from the fat bird with tweezers.

Mom made Jell-O and baked breads. She pealed potatoes and put cheese into celery. She peeled apples and baked pies. We kids made hourly checks on the bird in the oven as Dad would slather butter all over him. Every time we heard the timer ding, we'd run to the oven to watch it again.

Dad kept us busy all day with different jobs. At some point during the day he piled us all in the car and we went to pick up my grandma from the nursing home.

While we were gone, mom set the tables. There was the huge dining table and also a small kids table. The big table had two vases of beautiful flowers and the kids table had a small vase with beautiful flowers. Even the kids got to use the fancy dishes on this day. Both tables had lacey tablecloths.

Glender Brown and her mom and dad arrived shortly after we got home. Mrs. Willis and her son got there around the same time. Mrs. Willis was our housekeeper, but she didn't have to work on this day. We all loved her very much.

Glender's name was given to us at school. Her family would not be having a Thanksgiving at their house so they came to share the day with us.

As my grandma, my mom and dad, sisters and brothers and the Browns and the Willises all sat around these beautiful tables, we were all very aware how special this day was. We were all very aware of how much loved filled the room. We all had lots to be thankful for.

We all held hands and bowed our heads and Dad said the prayer.

Every time I smell turkey, I remember that day. I think of Glender and hope she's well. I think of Mrs. Willis and hope she knew how much she was loved.

These memories were just the start of a lifetime of special days.

Gail Earl is a member of the writing class offered through the Cerritos College Education Program. It is held off-campus at the Norwalk Senior Center.

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