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My First Worst Thanksgiving


Because most everyone is scaling back their holiday plans this year to adhere to the "stop the spread" recommendations from the CDC, there's no doubt Thanksgiving 2020 will look much different than past celebrations.


This got me thinking back to the very first Thanksgiving gathering I attended with my husband's side of the family in the small town of Elmore City, Oklahoma.


For those of you who don't know me, I'll share that I'm an outspoken Texas gal raised alongside three sisters, all of whom are pretty independent—thanks to our awesome mom, Franny. Thanksgiving gatherings in our family were mostly large and chaotic with tons of food and merriment. Everyone brought side dishes and desserts and the host family was always in charge of the turkey and dressing.


While the women labored away in the kitchen, laughing and catching up on all the latest family happenings, we kids were exiled to the great outdoors—which was perfectly fine with us! I'm recalling those carefree childhood days—no slaving over a hot stove, sitting at some makeshift kiddy-table with cousins we seldom got to see—and best of all, no one expected us to do the dishes! In fact, after the meal, the kids all got sent outside again. Good times!


Oh, and the men? Well, the guys would congregate in front of the television to watch football until the turkey was pulled from the oven. Whoever the "man of the house" was that year would have the honor of being summoned into the kitchen where he'd pull out the electric knife and carve the bejeebers out of the turkey. (Sidebar: Unlike every Hallmark movie I've ever watched, my family never placed a glistening, perfectly roasted, whole turkey on the table) In truth, by the time the dinner bell rang, our poor bird was already hacked into a bazillion pieces. While this might not have been very "Martha Stewart" of us, it did help expedite the serving line!


After we'd all stuffed ourselves (and unfastened the top button of our jeans), it was clean-up time.


Now, although I'm a modern kind of female at heart, I don't really mind the fact that the "women-folk" were the primary cooks and cleaner-uppers. In fairness to the opposite sex, some of the guys would make a feeble attempt to help by clearing their plates and stowing away the many chairs and tables scattered around. After that, the males would join the rest of their kind, slipping into the inevitable, post-Thanksgiving-meal "food coma".


In my mind, the most important part of "Turkey Day" is not cramming as much food into your belly as humanly possible. It's about being together. And to me, that means eating turkey (and everything else you can heap on your plate!), together.

I mentioned the "kiddy-table" earlier. There were many Thanksgiving gatherings where our celebrations had multiple "kiddy-tables", along with "secondary-tables" for the teens. There were also people (of various ages) sitting on the floor around the coffee table, or those lined up on the sofas with T.V. trays. It didn't really matter where you ate, it mattered when you ate—and again, in our family that meant eating together!


Heavy sigh. (You hanging in here with me?)


Now that I've shared my fond memories of Thanksgivings past, I'll delve into the recesses of my brain, from lo, more than thirty-five years ago and take you on the adventure and odyssey that is my life with James Simmons and how his family used to celebrate Thanksgiving before I came along.


It was our first Thanksgiving as a married couple and we were still very much in honeymoon mode. We got up early that Thursday and made the nearly two-hour drive from Dallas to Elmore City. We'd packed up my world-renown jalapeno corn casserole and a couple of homemade pumpkin pies. When we arrived at his Nanny's house, her small kitchen was buzzing with activity. We greeted everyone and found a spot for our contributions to the meal. Before I knew it, I was thrown into a whirlwind of action—peeling, dicing, and mashing things along with all the other ladies.

This is just like my family's Thanksgiving get-togethers, I thought happily. Maybe being away from my mom and sisters this year won't be so bad after all . . . I didn't notice that my husband had quietly slipped out of the kitchen to visit with the other guys who were outside talking ranching, quail-hunting, and bird dogs.


In addition to the kitchen table, tray tables had been set up in the living room along with a card table and chairs. While offering to help layout the napkins and silverware, I did a quick count of the available seating and considered the large number of people who'd soon be coming inside to partake in the feast. Now, I'm the first one to tell you that math is not my thing—but it didn't take a whiz kid to realize there were far more people than seats.


So, I cornered one of James' cousins. "Are some folks going to eat outside?" I asked, dubiously looking around the room. "James and I can do that. It's a beautiful day."


Now, this particular cousin is one of my favorites in the Simmons clan. She shot me a kind, yet apologetic smile. "I guess no one explained to you how we do Thanksgivings at Nanny's. We'll call the men inside first and serve them their food. After they clear out, all the women and children eat."


In addition to math, we can add the inability to mask my facial expressions. (Newsflash: I'm also a lousy poker player!) I'm sure the cousin could see that I was beyond shocked by what she'd said, however; being fairly new to the family, I tried to take the news in stride. (This was also because I was certain James would not eat Thanksgiving dinner unless his adoring wife was by his side) He'll hang back with me until all the rest of the men get their food and then we'll take our plates outside, I thought.


Shortly after that, all the men trooped back inside. There was a long blessing over the food and then, the guys commenced tearing into all the food. I stayed out of their way, watching as the women scrambled to serve drinks and ensure their spouses and kinfolk (that's a country "thang"), had everything they needed.


I'd love to tell you that the romantic notion I'd imagined of my handsome husband abandoning the pack and sauntering over to wait with me happened, but alas, it did not. In fact, James was right there in the thick of the feeding frenzy. Sadly, somewhere between the blessing and the enormous pan of homemade stuffing his Aunt Claudine was somewhat famous for, I lost him.


No one noticed when I made a quiet exit through the back door.


I made my way to the storm cellar and took a seat on the roof. It was a sunny day and I held my face up to the sky. What the heck is going on here? I asked myself. How can this be happening? It's like I'm in some kind of time-warp!


Then I did what I always did back then when I needed someone to listen to me vent—I called my mother.


I knew Franny would be quick to jump in my corner because she was always my champion. She listened to me cry and complain for a few minutes and agreed with me that what I'd just experienced was old-fashioned and a huge injustice to the women. My mom also went on to say that it didn't matter where everyone sat, families should always share their Thanksgiving meals together.


After talking with her for a while, the indignation at being treated like a second-class citizen began to feel like a real bone of contention. "Where's James now?" asked Franny.


"Actually, he's walking over here towards me," I replied, somewhat snarkily. "I guess he's finished eating and wants me to go in there with all the women and polish off the left-overs."


"Monica," Franny said. "Everything is different for you now. You don't have to embrace all of James' family's traditions, but you do have a husband who loves you. Talk to him and tell him how you feel. Life is too short to be angry over a silly turkey dinner, and frankly, if you don't like the way they do Thanksgiving in Elmore City, just don't celebrate this holiday with them anymore. Maybe that's the best solution."


"I've gotta go, Mom," I told her. "I need to talk with James."


And talk we did. The two of us sat on that storm cellar roof and hashed out all the reasons I felt I'd been belittled as a woman. James told me when he'd finally looked up and realized I was nowhere to be found, he'd come looking for me. "I don't know why we've done it this way for so many years and I agree it doesn't seem right. Honestly, I've never noticed how unfair it is to the women . . . I guess because none of them have ever complained about it before," he told me. "I'll talk to Dad about it."


I'm certain I winced at his use of the word "complained". I mean, who wants to be known as a complainer? And, although I was still feeling indignant, my heart went out to James because it was probably embarrassing for him to have to tell his family that his new bride wasn't willing to go with the flow.


I'm happy to say, changes were made—much to some of the men's dismay. Moving forward, we relocated Nanny's Thanksgiving to Aunt Claudine's house where there was much more space and everyone could eat at the same time. Over the years we've had many splendid gatherings there and I count these memories as some of my best Thanksgiving experiences.


This story would not be complete without me adding that to this day, whenever the Simmons side of our family gathers for a holiday event, James' brother John Mark (A long-time ordained Baptist pastor), can't help himself. After blessing the food, he'll always tease me by saying, "Okay, men, go first! Ladies, you can line up after us!"


I'll roll my eyes as he winks back at me. Family . . . grrrr!


Closet ClotheSure Week 42

Monday -

Kickin' the work week off with a white, peek-a-boo sleeve top by Jennifer Lopez. (Kohls) I've had this fun, silver-studded blouse for as long as I can remember! And, the long denim skirt from LizWear even longer than that! (I know it's at least twenty-five years old) Both pieces are on the loser board because they're very dated.


The skirt, in particular, is a shining example of holding onto something for far too long. I've always enjoyed wearing it with boots and of course, you know by now how I feel about pockets!


I had to laugh when a young co-worker told me this outfit reminded her of her kindergarten teacher! Someone on social media said I looked like I should be on "Little House on The Prairie. LOL (and ouch!) #itsgone


Tuesday - This is another blouse/skirt combo featuring two of my favorite pieces. The jade-green sheet top by Eva Mendes (New York and Company) is actually a bodysuit. It has a very feminine vibe to it which I really like.

And, the long grey skirt with the funky green tulle hem? It once belonged to the late Mandy H. (If you've not read my blog on her, you might consider checking it out:

https://www.monicaesimmons.com/post/here-s-a-peek-at-my-most-expensive-dress


This unique garment by designer Principessa is both fun and flattering. Described as "modern bohemium chic", Principessa is located in the heart of Venice, California on Abbot Kenney Boulevard. Google further describes this shopping mecca like this:

The famous Abbot Kinney Boulevard is home to high-end fashion, jewelry, art galleries, and gift shops. The mile-long strip was revitalized in the late 1980s by community groups and property owners, and is now a vibrant destination known as "the coolest block in America." Perhaps someday I'll visit!

Wednesday -

I'm not even sure why I bought this green, nude, and burgundy dress from Ann Taylor! I can tell you it was many years ago and I'm thinking now it must have been on a really great sale rack!

Truthfully, I've worn it one time before this photo and then again this week to work.

It's so getting the boot!

(but I do love the burgundy shoes!)

#gone #anntaylor


Thursday -

I love this photo of the bright Texas sunshine flowing into our living room on Saturday morning! I also love that if you blow this picture up, you can see Cabbit lounging in the warm rays on the sofa.

This body-suit and skirt by Eva Mendez (New York and Company) are long-time fixtures in my closet. At the beginning of the week, these two were not on the loser board, but having worn this outfit today, I'm leaning toward shedding the skirt. It's because the navy lining tends to drop below the hemline. The body-suit will be staying as it pairs nicely with some of my suits.

From The Great Outdoors -

A beautiful sunset over Grapevine Lake taken earlier this week.


In closing, I'd like to say that as I was sharing the tale of my first Thanksgiving at Nanny's, it did occur to me that I could have had more of a servant's heart about the entire affair and should have handled things differently. After all, even Jesus served those around Him.

Check out Mark 10:45:

"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


2020 Monica thinks that 1980's Monica should have swallowed her pride and let James' clan do Thanksgiving the way the family had done it for generations. We could have talked about how I felt on the drive back to Dallas, instead of me making a stand in the middle of the celebration.


I suppose with age comes wisdom!

In Him,

Love,

Monica




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