Woster: Romanticizing the aromas of the holiday

Think how my friends would have treated me if I had raved about how great the house smelled when my mom was making a special meal. They’d have laughed me off the playground.


One of the finest things about Thanksgiving Day back home was the wonderful aroma of cooking that filled the house – turkey in the oven, fat potatoes boiling on the stove and my mom’s marvelous pies resting on the counter until it was their turn to be baked.

Even as a young boy, I reveled in the aromas of Thanksgiving. I couldn’t have put that into words when I was young. I probably wouldn’t have even if I could have, because what boy gets enthusiastic about the cooking part of Thanksgiving Day? It’s all about the finished meal filling the table, crowding the good plates and fancy (well, fancy to our family, anyway) silverware.

Think how my friends would have treated me if I had raved about how great the house smelled when my mom was making a special meal. They’d have laughed me off the playground. Sadly, I’d have done the same if any of my friends had gone on about their mom’s Thanksgiving cooking. Looking back over 60 or 70 years, it’s easy to be romantic about the aromas of the holiday. At the time, it wasn’t something a kid would do.

But alone in my room, taking in the odors of the various holiday dishes being prepared, I could admit to myself that I really enjoyed that part of Thanksgiving.

I enjoyed the aromas of the holiday even more after I left for college in Omaha and came home for my first Thanksgiving break as a freshman. Maybe some of that enjoyment was relief at being home for the break. The trip back from Omaha had been more than a little difficult for me.


Somehow, and I never understood how he did it, my dad contacted some people traveling through Omaha and Chamberlain on a journey to their home. He arranged a ride for me. The trip took forever on the two-lane highways that wound through the Missouri River valley on the Iowa side of the border. I remember that the older woman in the car kept making conversation. I’m sure she was being nice to a shy kid, but I just wanted to stare out the window and wait to see the sign that said we were crossing into South Dakota.

When the car finally pulled up at our curb, I hopped out, grabbed the new hat I’d just purchased at the huge Brandeis store, discovered that it had been crushed by one of the other riders, mumbled my thanks for the ride and fled to the safety and comfort of my house and my family.

No sooner was I in the house than the cinnamony scent of a fresh-baked apple erased thoughts of the bad trip. I wolfed down a piece, accepted another at my mom’s urging and felt all was right with the world. The next morning when I awoke, I came alive to the aromas of Thanksgiving. If I thought I’d been home the evening before, now I knew I was.

Truth be told, having the family gathered around a table for Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t such an unusual thing. Growing up on the farm, the family ate most meals together. They were big meals, too, as anyone who grew up in a farm or ranch family knows. Our tractors, grain trucks and combines needed fuel to make it through a work day. So did members of our family. It took a whole lot of meat and potatoes and vegetables and cakes and pies to keep us going. I suppose, then, a person could say Thanksgiving dinner was just one more big meal, with turkey substituted for steak or roast or ham or fried chicken.

The difference was symbolic more than anything else. There we were, the whole family, gathered together to share a meal, to share the general richness of our lives together and to take a moment to acknowledge our many blessings.

Someone on a morning show last Sunday said Thanksgiving is a time when your whole family gets together, whether you like it or not. Well, true. But it’s also when your whole family can be thankful together. Even the aromas of my mom’s cooking didn’t beat that.

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