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November 23, 2013

Ronn Mott: Memories of long ago Thanksgivings

TERRE HAUTE — Like many youngsters growing up in this part of Indiana, the holidays were always something full of good times and, of course, going to Grandma’s house.  

I remember standing up in the back of my dad’s car singing, “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go.” The words to that song have reference to gliding over the snow, but it was a rare occurrence during those growing-up years that we had snow on the ground in November. At least two times, we had snow so thick I wasn’t sure we were going to make it, but we always did.  

It might be that I’m getting older and memories of these times are sweeter, but I do remember them fondly. The food was always a big hit with me … noodles on my mashed potatoes, turkey or chicken, cranberries that had been cooked on the stove, dressing, and sweet potatoes and other potatoes, green beans and corn. The desserts were typical of Hoosier tables: Pumpkin pie (made from scratch), apple pie, some berry combination pie and peach pie. It’s nice remembering those days without thinking about diabetes, diet and all the worries that go with modern living. I think the order of the day in those days was to eat and be merry. And, as a youngster, I certainly was.

Grandma’s stove, coal-fed from coal they mined on their farm, was in the kitchen where everyone gathered to eat. Sometimes the Christmas tree was up but not decorated. Grandma and Grandpa’s farm had no electricity so it was decorated with circlets of red and green heavy paper that was made into a long rope we wrapped around the tree. Other ropes were made from popcorn and leftover, uncooked cranberries. Purchased red, yellow, blue and green Christmas balls, or objects the grandchildren had made in school, were placed on the tree. It’s amazing how pretty the tree was without electric lights. Perhaps it was the sheer joy of making the ornaments and being involved in the project.

There wasn’t always a turkey because the meat on the table came from what they had raised. There was always pork and, perhaps, beef as well as chicken and, often, a Guinea. An abundance of good eating from a farm family that never considered themselves above the word “poor.”

I haven’t sung, “Over the river and through the woods,” because I have not gone to Grandma’s house in more than 50 years. However, I’m certain she would be glad to know I played it on the radio every Thanksgiving.

The memories garnered at those holiday gatherings have been duplicated over the years one way or the other. It will be duplicated again this year. With the 95-year-old matriarch of my wife’s family being hosted by son, daughter, daughter-in-law and grandchildren, it’s a wonderful way to spend Thanksgiving.

But I’m sure all of them would understand it isn’t quite the same as it was when I was a child in eagerness going “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house …”

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star.

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