Thanksgiving Traditions

2014-11-27 Thanksgiving Day

I’m thankful for memories of Thanksgiving family traditions. My favorite part of Thanksgiving was the preparation for the big dinner. There was always excitement in the air the night before Thanksgiving while my mother, who was an excellent cook, was busy in the kitchen baking and preparing for the big dinner the next day.

Her kitchen counter tops were cluttered with pie pans, mixing bowls, utensils, spices and ingredients needed to make her delicious pumpkin, mincemeat, and lemon meringue pies, fruit cake, fudge, and rosette cookies filled with jellies and confectioner sugar. Her kitchen sink was piled high with pots and pans and every measuring spoon and measuring cup used.

She had an art of making her own flakiest pie crust. When I was much younger, I loved helping her make the pies because when she was finished, she would let me have the leftover pie dough. I would use her wooden rolling pin and roll out the dough multiple times to get it thin enough and just right. Next I would brush it with melted butter and then sprinkle a mixture of sugar and cinnamon on top and bake it. I always enjoyed putting together my creation and it tasted delicious!

She would always have a totally messy kitchen preparing the food, but when she was finished baking and cleaning up she would arrange everything attractively on the table showing the trophies of her cooking skill.

Keeping Your Memories of family traditions is important to future generations. This Thanksgiving after everyone has had their fill of turkey and desserts grab an audio recorder or a video camera and speak to those who aren’t watching the football games and record some of their Thanksgiving memories also. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • How was Thanksgiving celebrated when you were a child?
  • What were the favorite foods that family members prepared?
  • What was your most memorable Thanksgiving? Where was it? Who was there? What was happening?
  • How has Thanksgiving changed over the years?
  • What was your favorite Thanksgiving tradition?


Finding an Unknown Link to My Past


For the past ten years we have driven that one and a half hour journey on I-65 from Northwest Indiana taking my kids back and forth to Purdue University in West Lafayette. We  attended first year orientations, moved them in and out of dorms and apartments, cheered at football and basketball games, and proudly attended and cried at graduations.

Little did I realize that in all those travels how close we were to a part of my past. Little did I know that  over 180 years ago my ancestors worked, raised families and traveled only twenty miles from where I often visited. I only knew of the majority of my ancestors, including my parents, who were originally from Missouri and Texas.

Earlier this year I learned that my great-great-great-great-grandparents were buried near Delphi, Indiana which was only 20 miles from where we had been traveling to all these years.

So this past summer when we drove down one last time to help my youngest son compile all his belongings into a U-Haul and move home after his graduation, we decided to find this cemetery and pay honor to these folks that were part of my ancestry.

Fortunately, this cemetery was small enough that it was a short search for the gravesites. I was excited to stand near the graves of these great-great-great-great-grandparents who died in the mid 1800’s. I was amazed by the fact that I was standing near the grave where my ancestors were buried 160 years ago. Would they ever have imagined that a descendant  – a granddaughter – would be standing there?

I have found stories of these ancestors that have been recorded by others. I don’t know if they ever journaled personally to preserve their own stories. I would love to know how they commuted, did they travel much, how did they spend time with their family? Were they anything like me or was I anything like them? It was an odd feeling standing in this cemetery in the middle of farmlands knowing that part of me was here.

How far back have you been able to trace your ancestors? Find A Grave has over 138 million grave records and is an excellent source for finding information and leads. Pull out your laptop or grab a pen and paper and start Keeping Your Memories of the stories you have heard your parents or grandparents share with you about their grandparents. If you don’t have many of those stories, record stories of your grandparents for future generations to read.

  • Do you remember any special stories your grandparents told you?
  • Where did your grandparents live?
  • Where were they born?
  • What circumstances brought them to the place where your parents were born?
  • If your grandparents are still with you, are they able to tell you stories of their grandparents?

My Dad’s Travels on the U.S.S. Anzio


“When I saw the U.S.S. Anzio carrier that I was being assigned to it looked so big and awesome and dangerous, and I realized for the first time what I had got myself into.  This was real and the training and the fun I had been having was over, and I didn’t know what was ahead of me.  As I walked up that gangplank with my sea bag on my shoulder (which I could hardly carry), for the first time it hit me. I was afraid.”

“After a while the excitement of the newness wore off and homesickness set in.  I remember many boring days, as the days went by, and we missed our family.  While at sea we would have regular routines getting up at 5:30 a.m., have breakfast and then have roll call on the flight deck and exercises.  Sometimes it was so hot, we all had heat rash and the food tasted bad at times.

I remember when a submarine had been detected and we had to go on alert because we would be the target that they would pursue, even though we had destroyer escort.  But that was our goal to get the subs before they sunk someone else but still that’s when the fear set in.

But even with that fear I’m happy to say that I was proud that I did serve my country.  I was able to go ashore in the Philippines, Pearl Harbor, the Island of Guam, also Ulithi, anchored at Okinawa, Kerama Retto, in the Ryukyus Islands, also the Marshall Island, the Caroline Islands, Korea, China, Cuba and Panama City.  I got to see a lot of this world, but the U.S.A. is still the best.  It’s an adventure I shall never forget.”

This excerpt was from my Dad’s memoir that he wrote in 1998. He shared that in January 1944 at the age of 17 he enlisted in the U.S. Navy to join the forces in the fight to win World War II. He left his hometown in Beaumont, Texas and he along with other enlistees boarded a troop train headed for boot camp in San Diego, California. He served on the U.S.S. Anzio, U.S.S. Coral Sea CVE57, and the U.S.S. Franklin Roosevelt.

My dad passed eight years ago but his service to our country will never be forgotten because he recorded his adventures of service during World War II. If you are an armed services veteran of any age, it is important to be Keeping Your Memories recorded for future generations to read what you experienced and what you learned from your service to our country. If you have any family members that have served, ask them to write their memories or videotape their stories.

  • What was your rank and serial number?
  • Were you drafted or did you enlist?
  • What were your duties and assignments in camp and on the field?
  • What was the biggest act of courage you saw? By an ally? By an enemy?
  • How difficult was the transition from the military back to civilian life?