An early start to Thanksgiving dinner


Another Thanksgiving has come and gone for the Patterson family.

Good food, great fellowship, traditional favorites and new memories make for a thankful holiday.

But I can remember a time when things didn’t go so smoothly.

My grandmother began her Thanksgiving preparations at the crack of dawn. Before the rooster crowed, Maw Maw would already have the turkey cooked and sliced. The cakes would be frosted. The dressing would be piping hot. And the table would be set.

Most families gather together around lunch to visit with each other before grabbing a plate. Not Maw Maw.

Maw Maw would get so excited about serving all that food that she thought people should start eating around 9 a.m. By 9:30 a.m., we needed to have made it the dessert table.

She would start looking at her clock and stomping her feet around 8:30 a.m.

“Well, where is everybody,” she asked, wiping the counters for the tenth time. “It’s time to eat. I guess ain’t nobody coming. I’m telling you, I’m not doing this next year.”

I would have nestled in on the floor in front of the television to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade. By the time Snoopy made his way through the streets, Maw Maw was pacing the floor.

“The food is gonna be cold by the time the whole bunch gets here,” Maw Maw said, adding some more broth to the gravy.

Paw Paw packed his pipe with tobacco and just sat there. He was eyeballing the cakes and pies. Even though he was a diabetic, he was given “a cheat day” when it came to Thanksgiving, Christmas and his birthday.

By the time my aunt, uncle and cousins made it to Maw Maw’s house, she was hot-headed.

“Good evening,” she grumbled, shoving plates into people’s hands as they walked through the screen door. “I didn’t think y’all were coming.”

“Mother, it’s ten o’clock in the morning,” my Aunt Sonya would reply.

“Quit talking, say the blessing, it’s time to eat,” Maw Maw said, all in one breath.

Maw Maw was always bad about peering over the table to make sure you tried a sample of everything she made. And she better not catch you skipping over her stuff.

“What did you think about that sweet potato casserole,” she asked me.

“I don’t really like sweet potatoes,” I said, placing some more ham slices on my plate.

Her eyes would squint together, and her lips would tighten. Before I knew it, I was enjoying myself a heaping helping of sweet potato casserole whether I liked it or not.

One year my mother decided to host Thanksgiving because Maw Maw “wasn’t going to do it again.”

Maw Maw sat at the kitchen table, shaking her car keys, reminding us that it was time to eat around 9:30 a.m.

“We gotta wait on the dressing to cook,” I said. “It ain’t even lunch yet.”

She huffed and puffed so much. She even threatened to start writing people out of the will.

“Food’s ready,” Momma yelled across the house, taking the dressing out of the oven.

After blessings, we all dove into the bountiful harvest.

It was delicious...except when I slipped a spoon of dressing in my mouth. It was more like soup, and it tasted awful.

“Momma,” I whispered, leaning over to her. “This dressing ain’t cooked all the way...”

“Jamie...” Momma replied, cutting her turkey slice. “Just eat.”

The whole family ate undercooked dressing that year because Maw Maw was ready to eat. She almost took the whole platter out by herself.

When Maw Maw settled in for a nap, we slipped the dressing back into the oven to let it finish cooking. Like children up to no good, we all huddled around the cooked dressing and gobbled it up before Maw Maw woke up.

 Maw Maw has since passed away. Momma took over the food duties at her house.

To her credit, Momma has never asked me to be there by 9 a.m.

And we have never had uncooked dressing on the table again either.

But last year, Momma was a little overwhelmed. With more grandchildren starting to pop up, the food list has grown significantly.

“I’m not doing this again next year,” she said, with a grin.

“What, am I out of the will now,” I asked, sneaking a spoon of gravy and dodging a dish rag headed toward my face.