By Uvalde Leader-News Staff, November 22, 2020
People are weary of the current situation: the stress, the isolation, and the anxiety. Now, with the holidays, we add the suggested safety protocol to limit the number of people at our homes to immediate family or 10 or less individuals. In addition to the virus concern and health issues, many families have faced hardships, including the loss of family members, jobs, and/or income. Yes, 2020 has been a tough year.
Since the initial COVID-19 outbreak, our nation, our state, and our county and town have endured various trials. Now we are amidst a second wave. We know the drill: wear your mask, wash your hands and practice social distancing. To avoid COVID-19, we will adapt, accept challenges, and move forward.
Thankfully, we have the means to continue our daily life, including being able to attend work/school through remote options, visit medical providers via tele-med appointments, attend meetings/church via Zoom, video chat with family and friends, and shop online or order curbside.
As we anticipate Thanksgiving and Christmas, we will need to adjust. Customs of our previous holiday gatherings, such as sharing spreads of our favorite holiday foods, cooking in our crowded kitchens, and socializing in our packed homes will not work this year. Time for Plan B.
One suggestion is to have a virtual holiday through Zoom or other apps. Some are apt with technology; some are not. I am in the latter group.
How do we plan for the holidays? Even with a smaller group, you can enjoy a traditional meal. However, you may prepare fewer dishes or try a new menu instead of the usual smorgasbord of foods.
For years, Thanksgiving has been my family’s favorite holiday. My siblings and their families always gathered at my parents’ home, whether it was their Lobo Valley mountain house near Van Horn, their Cibolo creek house at Shafter, their Cline house, or later at Mama Lou’s Uvalde home. Easily, we had 35-45 family members, spanning several generations.
At Mama Lou’s, we enjoyed her usual spread: two turkeys and a ham, rice and cornbread dressing and giblet gravy, favorite sides of green bean casserole, yams, mashed potatoes, mac-n-cheese, copper pennies (carrots), vegetable and fruit salads, cranberries, hot rolls, and a relish tray.
Desserts were stacked on the oak buffet in the dining room. Choices included assorted pies, from double crust lemon, pumpkin, apple and cherry, to pecan; cakes, from chocolate chip Bundt to 7UP pound; and bars and cookies from brownies and lemon squares to Yan Hagels and chocolate chip cookies.
When she was unable to cook, Mama Lou directed the meal prep from her recliner, ensuring the correct amounts of spices and liquids were used, and giving instructions on how to blend the giblets, broth, and seasonings for the gravy, and cooking times. As we prepared the food, she served as the taster and judge.
On Friday, we converted the kitchen island to a tamale and chili bar with all the fixings. Of course, we made a dent in the turkey-day leftovers, too.
The first Thanksgiving after Mama Lou died (2011), I remember bawling as I prepared the cornbread and rice dressing to take to my daughter’s. No, Thanksgiving would never be the same. Then, we had to customize our holidays for our kids and their families.
These recollections awaken memories of other holidays spent in Camp Wood, where my in-laws Alvie and Hazel Tucker lived after they retired. My mother-in-law was an awesome cook. I remember her baking the turkey overnight in a paper bag and making a roaster pan of dressing. After a delicious meal, we watched football games, visited with relatives from Llano and Houston, and played dominoes or cards. The kids played outside; often, we drove to the swimming hole or the Nueces River dam. When we went home, my sister-in-law and I took containers of leftover cornbread dressing, turkey, and desserts. I grabbed the bread pudding, and my mother-in-law always included a box of homemade fudge, divinity, and pralines.
My childhood memories include holidays spent at Daddy John and Mamaw’s house at Cline. Her table and buffet were filled with traditional turkey and cornbread dressing, doused with extra sage. With all seven of her children and their families present, I don’t know how we fit in her house (later she added the den with the wood stove).
We cousins spent time playing outside, weather permitting, and racing to the bump-gate. If it was too cold or wet, we played cards or games in one of the five bedrooms. At Mamaw’s, I remember crowding around the space heater, sleeping on the Baptist pallet with the youngins, and swirling around on the green swivel chair.
By afternoon, the men and boys, and my aunts, headed to the deer blinds. The aunts told me they could visit and laugh while hunting, unlike the men with their “No Talking” rule. After dark, the deer were unloaded, dressed, and hung from a tree. A day or two later, the women trimmed, cut, and packaged the meat on the chrome kitchen table. They processed the scrap meat and shoulders for ground meat and sausage.
Now that my husband and I have reached “elder” status, we plan the holiday schedule. Being flexible, we have hosted at different places. We agree, however, that we prefer hosting either Thanksgiving or Christmas at our son’s home in north Texas. This enables us to spend time with our son’s and daughter’s family, and most of the seven grandchildren (at times, the older ones have work conflicts). We share the food prep and contribute our favorite dishes. I take the tamales for chili night. All enjoy the recreation, which includes playing ping-pong, pool, washers, cards, and target shooting, fishing, and walking.
While we may downsize our 2020 holidays, we can still appreciate the season. We can take time to visit, to play games, and to reminiscence about previous holidays. Sharing these stories will dull the sting of this year’s changes.
Is this ideal? Maybe not. Holidays are for family and for special moments. Since we can’t control 2020, we can adjust and embrace a new routine. Whatever works best for your family is the route to go.
For the 2020 holidays, take time to be thankful. Be safe. Stay well. Happy Holidays!
Terri Tucker is a writer and retired educator who was most recently published in an anthology entitled “Odes and Elegies: Eco-Poetry From the Texas Gulf Coast.” The paperback edition is available from Amazon.com for $17.