Over the hills and through the woods to Grandma’s house we go. In days bygone, poetry and stories written about going to grandparent’s house for holiday celebration. In our mind’s picture, we see images of traveling through the countryside to reach the farm of our grandparents, as a result of the books we have read as children, mostly. A world of make believe, and a soft spot we fall, in our imagination, to take us away from the reality of all that is bothering us about the world we live in today.
When I recall Thanksgiving as a child growing up and visiting grandparents during the depression years of the thirties, I conjure up a different picture. Instead of traveling to the country to visit grandparents, my family went from the country to the city to visit grandparents.
Because my parents were teenagers when I was born, living on a farm in northeast Georgia, I had young grandparents and a lot of aunts and uncles and cousins my age, some younger and some older. On my paternal side, my grandparents lived on an adjoining farm. I saw them everyday, as I walked to their house to catch the schoolbus. And saw my grandmother every day when I got off the schoolbus.
On the other hand, my maternal grandparents lived in town, therefore the times we visited to spend the night were a case of going from the country into town, which was a special treat, and always seemed to be a lot of preparation, before we piled into the A-model Ford, to make the short trip to Grandma’s house.
The large house of my maternal grandparents sat high on a hill overlooking the little north Georgia town. A large hallway divided the house and the city limits ran down the middle of the hallway. Therefore half their house was in town and half was in the country. Surrounded by dozens of barns and buildings, on the western slope, one could see cotton fields and on the eastern side one could see all the city lights and a path led down the slope, so one could actually walk into town.
The house is still standing and occupied today, however all the surrounding buildings have been torn down.
We usually went early on Saturday morning and returned late Sunday afternoon. My grandmother spent most of the time in the kitchen, and at mealtime a large country harvest table was laden with wonderful food, mostly grown and preserved from their farm. There would be ham, chicken, beef roast and turkey. All kinds of vegetables and cakes and pies.
The large family gathering of aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents, was a special event. It seems my family had plenty of everything during those depression years, because so much was produced and preserved from farming. A separate building housed a cellar where all the canned goods were kept. Another building was a smoke house where the meats were preserved. There were barns for the milk cows, and separate barns for farm animals like horses and mules.
On the slope facing the small mill town was a large fenced-in garden area, and in the fall around Thanksgiving time, plenty of fresh turnip greens, spinach, and some green tomatoes before the frost, for fried green tomatoes. Then they were gathered before the frost and placed in a chest which held cornmeal, where the green tomatoes were buried to preserve for later use.
On one side of the house at the edge of the yard, large stacks of wood for heat in all the fireplaces. At Thanksgiving time, there was always a large roaring fire in the dining room, as the family gathered to feast together.
In the kitchen was a large woodburning cookstove, with two warming closets above, a large oven below and a side reservoir for heating water. An iron kettle of water always sat on the stove, with hot water ready to wash dishes, when the meal was finished. Just outside the kitchen on the backporch was a well, where the water was drawn.
Because I was the oldest, with two young brothers and one sister, my assignment was drawing water from the well, and I recall making up songs about going all the way to China to fetch a bucket of water.
Back then the midday meal was called dinner and the evening meal referred to as supper. After dinner, we all sat around the large fireplace and listened to stories from parents and grandparents. Sometimes popping popcorn with a wire-type basket with a long handle held over the roaring fire.
Afterwards we put on hat, coat and mittens to play in the large yard, before time to help feed the animals before dark. This meant climbing up the ladder to the barn loft to push the dried hay down to the horses, mules and cows below.
My grandfather was a horse trader, therefore there was always a lot of activity, comings and goings of neighbors and friends, buying and selling livestock.
What a difference in a way of life back then, compared to today in the twenty-first century. As I recall those days growing up, we always seemed to have plenty of everything living on a farm, but read about many in soup lines in larger cities.
As we approach the incoming New Year, much talk about the scarcity of food, and rising prices of such necessities as food and gasoline. With so few having any knowledge or means of raising and preserving food, I wonder how many will survive if the predictions come to pass.
In the meantime, this Thanksgiving there seems to be an abundance of everything. For myself and family, our plans are to gather at a family member’s beautiful home north of Atlanta. I look forward to the feast and fun with grandchildren of my own, particularly the youngest, five year old Prince William whom I post articles about from time to time.
I’m especially grateful for all I have, particularly children and grandchildren, all well and alive, and doing quite well, involved in so many activities, including music, dance, art, sports, travel and schooling.
On this Thanksgiving ending the first ten years of the twenty-first century, so much has changed, and yet there is much about us and life in general which remains unchanged. Not the least of which is our desire for Freedom.
Hope all my readers have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!
LET FREEDOM RING
JUST ME AC