Every Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Jujie and I have our traditional Pie Day. As soon as I get home from school, on come the aprons, out come the recipes, out come the rolling pins and pie tins, on come the Christmas carols (we have to have our music whilst we roll that darn pie crust by the hour), on come our loud voices, and we cook and sing, sing and cook up a storm. We have to have cherry pie...made the Darwin way...and lots of it. It's made of tart pie cherries, and we don't add near the sugar the recipe calls for. We love the fruitiness of it. We have to have pumpkin, lemon cheese pie, chocolate (dark and rich), and banana cream...and I DO mean cream! That's the minimum amount we can get by with, and they each have to be made a certain way. No store-bought, gaggy sweet pies for us. We are pie connoisseurs, I tell you!
Juje's cherry pie BEFORE baking AFTER baking...
Oh, how I love Thanksgiving. It's one of my favorite holidays of the year...and it is NOT just the food. Well, it IS the pie....but there are other considerations. I dabbled briefly with the idea of going out to eat this year, since there would be so few of us. But I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I am like Jujubee: BOUND by tradition!
Thanksgiving means family to me...all of my warm memories of this holiday center around family. I remember childhood Thanksgivings at my Gubler grandparents—with tables spread out in the yard on warm days, covered in white tableclothes, and troops of cousins—whole MOBS of them—making leaf piles and jumping in them, playing volleyball, climbing into Grandpa's grain silo, making huts in the hay in his barn—generally getting into all sorts of trouble while the adults were toiling away in the kitchen. I loved it. It was all about the fun...AND the pies.
There would always be a million, no...a zillion pies of every kind you can imagine. Every family would come laden with their personal favorites to share, and after the main courses were over, out would come the pies. It was always my goal to have a wee taste of each and every one, but it was never possible. There were simply too many.
I don't remember a childhood Thanksgiving without cousins. There was always a big crew, no matter which set of grandparents homes we went to—there was always music, laughter, and sharing of memories. And somewhere along the line, there was always prayer and hearkening back to why we celebrated this feast day in the first place. My mother was so diligent about keeping the history foremost in her kids' minds...well, she tried her best, anyway.
In fact, she researched the history of the first Thanksgiving and wrote a fictionalized account for the Friend magazine. If you go to LDS.org and put in her name, you will find it still in the archives: Ellen Goes to America, parts one and two. She also wrote a true story of her life called The Not-So-Pitiful Thanksgiving that she used to give as a reading. You can find it in the same place.
After I was married and had a large brood of my own, we still gathered with relatives...only one generation down. It eventually became our tradition to go to my sister's home because she had a huge basement with an extra kitchen. After dinner...and our pie-fest (one year we had 40 people and 41 pies...that's how bad we are!)...out would come the musical instruments, and we'd have a regular hoe-down. Ah...fun times.
Yesterday, my Thanksgiving guests fit around one normal-sized table...a far-cry from my past. (There was once we hosted almost 80 guests when we lived in the old pioneer home. Oh, la—how times have changed!) But here's the deal: It was still warm and loving, because as I looked at each of the faces gathered round my table, my heart swelled with love. I didn't need the huge crowd (especially since I am one of the ones toiling in the kitchen!!!), I just needed family.
We paid homage to the history of the day by gathering in the front room and doing a reader's theater of my mom's Five Kernels of Corn article...taken from a talk by Stirling Sill. We sang Over the River and Through the Woods and “We Gather Together...” We were silly at it, but still...it was good to remember and pay our respects for the freedoms we have in this great land.
Oh. And there WERE all those pies waiting in the kitchen.
I love people: Old ones, young ones, and all ages in-between. If you are a person and you are reading this, guess what? I LOVE YOU, you lucky dog! I adore my family most of all...and can I just say right here that grandkids really ARE the best? I am married to Darwin Gifford. Since there's only one of this wonderful man, you're out of luck. I got him first. We've been married 40 years now, and they truly are the best years of my life. We were blessed with 7 super-intelligent, talented and loving children: Aaron, Andrew, Katie, Janna, Shauna, Kendall, and Julianne.