PATSY BRUMFIELD: Holiday preparation, memories bring smiles all around

Thanksgiving is a happy, family time for so many of us.

Going through my mother's recipes last week helped me recall so many sights and smells of it all. I also had a laugh or two, reminded that I have become as compulsive as she about Thanksgiving menus and timetables necessary for food to be ready on time.

“7:15 a.m. – turn on the oven to 325″

“7:45 – Put the turkey into the oven, take a bath, sweep”

And so, over the course of the morning while my teenagers slept, the food made its culinary way toward the dinner table – baked turkey, smoked turkey, dressing, the proverbial green-bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, rice, gravy, corn, relish plate, cranberry salad, green salad, cranberry sauce, stuffed eggs, rolls, ice tea, key lime pie. That was just for we three and a longtime family friend.

One index card in the recipe box even lays out my mother's menu. Under the dessert category, she lists pumpkin or pecan pie, fresh apple cake and ambrosia and fruitcake, then notes “Whatever?? Nobody ever eats it anyway.” She was talking about the ambrosia and fruitcake.

I will carefully follow her instructions on the cornbread for the dressing, which I think may be the best part of the whole meal, especially for leftovers.

My mother loved the holiday so much that she set the table days before the actual event.

For the Brumfields, Thanksgiving has meant lots of wonderful food and some pretty memorable naps. One year, we didn't hestitate long over the turkey carcass and pie, and in no time we were so prostrate throughout the house that we could have been mistaken for victims of chemical poisoning.

Remembrance of another special Thanksgiving brings peals of laughter from most of those present, who were fortunate enough to witness one of the most extended and expansive “blessings” ever devised over the festive bird. My then-sister-in-law took it upon herself to pray and pray and pray for everyone and everything under the exalted vault of the universe. I had to evil-eye my young children, who were on the verge of chuckles.

I can't remember whether it was Thanksgiving or Christmas when my mother brought my 94-year-old grandfather to enjoy the fellowship. Even though he was deaf as could be, he sat patiently watching television as my children mischievously changed channels on him from their vantage point on the front porch. He may have thought it all very weird, but he never mentioned it at all.

This year, in my tiny Tupelo home, I'll happily sweat over the cooking and company. We'll pack up our goodies and travel over the river and through the woods to the more spacious home of that longtime family friend where we'll clink our glasses and rejoice in each other's company as our lives continue to change and an uneasy world goes by outside.

And this year, we will think about those who are not at home any more and those who wish they were home. My prayer may not be as expansive as that the one from the then-sister-in-law, but it will be longer than usual. We have much to be thankful for.

Patsy R. Brumfield is news editor of the Daily Journal and can be contacted at patsy.brumfield@djournal.com