As a child, we were always close to my dad’s side of the family. We gathered as a family once a month and on all major holidays. Thanksgiving was one of those holidays.

Back then, we dressed up for holidays, wore our Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. The men and boys wore dress slacks and nice shirts; the women and girls wore dresses or skirts and blouses. The women wore aprons because they spent time in the kitchen, preparing, cooking, and serving food and doing the dishes.

The aunts and uncles would take turns having Thanksgiving at their homes. When we went to Uncle Dermont and Aunt Irene’s place, a farm in Goshen, the first thing we would do was go stand on the big grate in the living room floor where the furnace sent it’s heat up. The forced warm air would blow our skirts up a bit, and would really warm up our feet, legs and rear ends on a cold day. They had an upstairs that we loved to explore, and a claw-foot bathtub.

Aunt Ruby and Uncle Leonard, lived in Idaho Falls and we would walk around their block and imagine who would be living in the homes. They didn’t have a big home or a big yard, but the entire neighborhood they lived in was like a puzzle to us.

Uncle Lawrence and Aunt Zola also lived on a farm and we could go out and run around. We could see the sheep that had been brought down from the winter pasture, climb the hay stacks and sometimes go into the big potato cellar.

When we had Thanksgiving at our home, Mother would be up early getting the turkey and stuffing in the oven. We would help move furniture around in the living room and set up chairs and tables. Then we would put the nice table cloths and cloth napkins to match on the tables. We’d carefully get Mother’s best dishes and silverware out of the corner cupboard, and set the table. It was always fun to use the “fancy” dishes and they made the day even more special. Mother’s fancy dishes came from Woolworth’s and were only used on special occasions. I see the same types of dishes now in thrift stores. None of the younger generations want those gold- and silver-rimmed dishes as they can’t be used in microwaves nor dishwashers. But we loved it when Mother let us help put them on the tables.

There would be three different tables: one for the small children, one for the older children and teenagers and one for the adults. As teenagers, we loved to be on the table designated for children and teenagers because then we could visit, talk, tease, laugh and have a good time instead of having to watch our manners at the adult table.

Dinner was usually served right close to noon. What a feast and how we did eat. It seemed like it was a contest on who could eat the most. After dinner and dropping the kids off at a movie, the men would find a place to take a nap. We didn’t have a TV until I was a junior in high school, only radios. So the guys didn’t sit around and watch football.

When we got home from the movie, pie was served, again using the hostess’ fancy plates, and then everyone would go home. Dad, Uncles Lawrence and Dermont all had to get home before dark to feed and take of their livestock.

What a blessing family is. We lived in a time of unrest, but a time of family togetherness. We were best friends with our cousins and looked forward to spending time with them. Our city cousins loved to come out to the country, to play, climb fences and hay stacks, mingle with the animals and get dirty. We country cousins loved to go to the city and walk the sidewalks and wonder what the people in those houses did if they didn’t have chores and animals and crops to take care of.

When it came down to it, Thanksgiving was a day of being thankful for the crops that had been harvested, for the animals that we were all taking care of and for family. Do the majority of people look at Thanksgiving as a day of thankfulness any more or just another holiday?

Not everyone has family, a big meal, a warm home and clean clothes, let alone cousins to play with and tease. I personally have a lot to be thankful for, not just on Thanksgiving Day but every day!

Jean Schwieder is a writer who has spent her life involved in eastern Idaho agriculture. Her books, including past columns, are available by calling 208-522-8098 or by email at straddlinthefence@gmail.com.

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