When I think of Thanksgiving memories, much has changed in Birmingham. One year my Uncle Glen came home from his work in Mexico City with the American embassy with his little dog and a Mexican friend. We all had a good laugh when his friend said he could not find his "pin of security." We imagined some top secret code. Till he said Aha and bent over and picked up somethinhg off the floor and said Here it is, It was a safety pin.
The little dog was a chihuahua that only understood Spanish. I had never seen one before and wondered if that was what they ate for Thanksgiving in Mexico. It hid under the table barking. It did not understand any of the bad things we had to say about it being so much trouble. So we had to learn some Spanish so the dog would not be afraid and lonesome. When we asked him if he wanted to go out, Afuera. Come here Ven aca. Or stop, Parate. If only it had worked on my brother.
Some years like this year we had a dual celebration for my brother Tucker who was born November 24. The poor kid, the best he could hope for was a cake with candles after Thanksgiving dinner.
It made up for all the times he scattered our paper dolls. Come to think of it, the birthday deprivation, playing second fiddle to the holiday, may be what made him need the attention.
Another big laugh was when my mother was teaching at Lakeview, clear across town. The parents of one of her students brought her a live turkey to show their appreciation. Its feet were tied together with a burlap sack over its head. My mother had to carry it by holding on to its feet and bring it home on the streetcar--not an easy thing to do.
Can you imagine my little mother, 95 pounds, with a 12-pound turkey objecting to being tied and taking a ride on the streetcar in downtown Birmingham, gobbling between stops and trying to get loose every time the door hissed open. Everyone on the streetcar had advice for my struggling mother and the fussing turkey.
She even had to transfer from one car to another downtown. There was no central station. You had to get off on the street and walk to the next stop and wait, with the turkey gobbling and fluttering and trying to escape. My mother just acted like nothing was happening. When she finally got off at the last stop she still had to lug that turkey that was as big as she was three blocks to our house. All the children playing called out and laughed at the little lady carrying the giant bird.
But my mother got the loast word when she got it home and chopped its head off with an axe and it made a delicious Thanksgiving dinner.
Fortunately, this bird was not around long enough for us to name it. Once my mother prepared a delcious chicken dinner but no one would eat any more when we discovered it was Whitey, our favorite chicken to play with that lived next door.
After I married and moved away, I still loved to celebrate when I could with my family. I remembered the times of getting close and feeling special kinship that only comes from being together on a special day. One Thanksgiving I well remember came after we had been transferred with our two young boys to New Orleans. It was lonesome being in a new city with no family or longtime friends, so i was especially excited when Bob arranged his schedule so we could go to Birmingham for Thanksgiving, we were my parents whom missed their grandchildren.
Mother had arranged quite a feast with turkey, oyster dressing, squash casserole and even delicious rolls from Marsh´s Bakery in Five Points West. She put out her best tablecloth, fine china and silver. It felt like doomsday when Bob´s boss phoned from New Orleans and said he needed his assistant to come back to New Orleans immediately.
It was a hard decision for me whether to leave my parents disappointed or my husband in New Orleans alone. Reluctantly I went with Bob as that was my first obligation, I thought. It was not a good time for any of us. Of course there was no expressway in those days. It was a long trip back, driving for six hours. Even the children were disappointed to leave their grandparents. They always enjoyed playing in the big old house and sitting in my dad´s radio room listening to stories from around the world. But that was what they called putting you through your paces in corporate America in those days.
We did not get any turkey that time, but we did take some barbecue from Crumley´s. I still remember the neon sign of the pink pigs with curley tails down the street from the Fairgrounds.
The next week at a Bell Telephone function that included the wives, Bob´s boss approached me to say he was sorry he had to call Bob back to work. I responded, Not half as sorry as my parents were with the turkey practically on the table. My husband was very upset with me as he feared his boss would think me rude and insulting. But it was the truth, I retorted.
Several weeks went by and Bob came home from work all excited. Walking down the hall at work, his boss had called him over and asked, How is it that I have never met your wife?
You just never know what you have to be thankful for. It might be an absentminded boss or a dog that just speaks Spanish. Never mind if it is an illusion.