I don't remember any one particular Thanksgiving while I was growing up. It's more an accumulation of them all rolled up into one pleasant memory that makes me smile. The song "over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go" definitely was the theme of the day for my family. Yes, over the Penobscot River and through Brewer to picturesque country of Holden was the route to my grandmother's house where a feast always awaited us. Sometimes winter had already begun and the landscape was delicately draped with snow. My brothers and I were filled with anticipation of the exquisite meal we would eat and the days ahead that led to the grand finale, Christmas.
Nana's house was filled with delicious holiday aromas from pumpkin and apple pies. My guilty pleasure was the suet pudding soaked with hard sauce. The dessert was so rich and flavorful, I could only eat a small serving even though I always wanted more. Cinnamon and other spices masked the smell of the turkey roasting in the oven and the medley of vegetables on the stove. Native grown McIntosh apples would fill the apple pies and sweeten the day as their flavor mingled with the vanilla ice cream slowing melting atop the warm pie. Their aroma is so distinctive that I could always tell if they were being sold in a store and now whenever I smell them, I'm instantly transported back to autumn in Maine when the orchards are bustling with business. There with her colorful apron on, Nana was the captain of her kitchen and always busy making sure everyone present was thoroughly sated. She rarely used a recipe, yet everything she made was baked to perfection. Her culinary expertise was strictly from instinct and the experience she had mastered many years before made her like some legendary figure from a Norman Rockwell illustration in my mind.
My choice from the turkey was always the wings, but when my Great Aunt Leah, my grandmother's sister dined with us, I had to share because they were her favorite as well. I never minded and to this day, I always announce out loud that this one is for Aunt Leah as I eat one wing for me and one wing for her. I know she'd like it that she's still remembered and included in all our holiday meals. Nana piled our plates beyond capacity, but no matter how much we ate it, everyone always had room for a little dessert and then a nap before going home. Nana always told me that my eyes were bigger than my stomach. I suppose she was right, but on holidays even a child can have a hollow leg and be a bottomless pit.
As the table was cleared and the food put away, my brothers and I did the dishes while the adults went into the living room to take a much needed breather. Nana always saved the paper tablecloth so I could cut out the turkeys and other Thanksgiving pictures printed on the tablecloth. By the time I was done cutting, it was late in the afternoon and time to return home back through the woods and over the river to Walter Street we would go, but each time I went to Nana's house before I would leave, I always made sure I signed her guest book she kept on the desk in the corner of her living room. Doing that always made me feel as special as the others who had been guests in her house. I'm sure the thought never crossed her mind to tell me not to do that because it was only for guests. After all, I was her only grand daughter and I'm sure she indulged me in many, many ways.