Another Thanksgiving on its way, and I can't help but reminisce.
My childhood memories of family get-togethers always includes certain remembrances of sleeping on those lovely poor folk inventions called Baptist pallets. We kids would be sent to bed on such contrivances, while the adults played dominoes and told stories and jokes we weren't supposed to hear. The voices of my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles intermingled with the clicking of ivory dominoes worked better than any drug I know for sleep inducement. For the uninitiated, a pallet (a Baptist pallet was where small children usually slept during sermons) is made from a couple of Grandmother's quilts spread out on the floor, topped with a sheet in the summer, and extra blankets in the winter. Such bedding was usually smack dab in the middle of the room, nearly always in the direct path to either the kitchen or the only bathroom.
Ever had your hair stepped on in the middle of the night and in your sleepy startled state jerked your head up to see who in Sam Hell was trying to make you bald as a cucumber? I once lay in wait for the scalper's return trip, vowing to get my revenge on the inconsiderate nocturnal traipser and bit the fire out of a cousin's ankle as he made his way back across the room. The plan obviously was not well thought out; I was stomped flatter than grapes in a wine vat. Our screams of mutual pain were rewarded with angry parental shushes which always included dire threats of an implementation of a leather belt to our hindquarters and a trip out to the back porch.
My family's Thanksgivings of yore were filled with simple country food and toe-tapping, played-by-ear fiddle and guitar music. We laughed and told the same stories over and over, with the occasional argument over which uncle thought up the boyhood idea of making a wild bird trap out of a box and a stick tied with a length of twine. (Needless to say, the bird emerged the victor in that escapade.) It was at such gatherings that I have learned how people survived the Depression, what it was like to have no television, or refrigerators.
So much of our family histories are oral ones. I strive to continue that tradition with my own children and grandchildren, adding new stories to the old but preserving those tales that are so much a part of our identity; our connection to the past and to ancestors who may not still be with us, but will always have a plate at the table whenever we come together for the holidays.
Today, I am not sure my 53 year-old bones could tolerate a night on the floor, but if I could rekindle that childhood joy, that special connectedness to family, it would be well worth another bald patch for the opportunity to hear my grandfather's laughter and the sound of dominoes being shuffled late into the night...