Thanksgiving Memories

Before I write my post for today, I want to let those of you who read the first part of Henry Troyer’s story about his educational journey that the second part of his story has been posted to the Amish Descendent Scholarship Fund blog. It is worth the time to read this compelling story. What makes it so compelling is Henry’s persistence in overcoming the struggles of acquiring a higher education. It is a story of thanks-giving, by recognizing his humble beginnings and being grateful for how far he was able to go in his life. For any other former Amish people who want to share their education stories, please be in touch with me via email: salomafurlong[at]gmail[dot]com. We would love to feature your story. Also, if you are struggling with issues after leaving the Amish, you can email me or Emma Milleremmamiller.adsfund@ We will be happy to lend you whatever support we can.

Thanksgiving inevitably evokes memories of past celebrations of this holiday for me. I’ve shared my childhood Thanksgiving stories here. This one is no exception. Because of the young woman who lives with us and bakes for a living, I am remembering the ten years when our sons were school-aged and I was baking for a living. I am sharing some of those recipes on my website as time goes on. Today I will share one of my squash bread and rolls (this is a yeast bread).

Those Thanksgivings of the past when David and I spent three days beforehand baking enough for the people in the town of Shelburne, Vermont, for their holiday needs were often overwhelming. The week before, I would have shopped for the ingredients; processed and pureed pumpkin and squash for bread and pies; made pie crust “crumbs” and whatever other preparations I could to make Thanksgiving week more tolerable. I couldn’t remember how much I used to bake, until I consulted my journal from 1995. Here is what I wrote:

“Thanksgiving baking was extremely hectic. David and I ran ourselves ragged. On Tuesday and Wednesday we made about 53 pies and 50-60 dozen rolls, plus 20 loaves of bread.”

My Shelburne kitchen on a baking day

Oh for the energy of the young! On Thanksgiving Day that year, David, the boys, and I drove twelve hours to Ohio. Here is what a wrote about our trip:

“We went directly to Bernadette’s (David’s sister). She had a turkey meal coming out of the oven just as we got there, so we ate with them. Then I played Big Boggle with Maurice and lost badly.

“Friday morning we drove to Susie’s We had a wonderful time with them. Sarah, John, Willy, Giovonni, and Jesse were there as well. We all had a good time. The meal was de-licious! Susie’s turkey was really good and so was her stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy. I made sweet potatoes and oatmeal rolls and Sarah made cole slaw. Susie also cooked some mixed vegetables and cranberry salad. For dessert we had warm apple pie, pumpkin pie, and pecan pie that I had brought.

“We went to Sarah’s at around 5:00, along with Susie and Bill’s family. We had a really nice time. Saturday we went to visit Mem and Datt. That’s another story. (In a later entry I described the depression I felt in going there. There were outward signs of this depression, as well as the moods people were in.)

“Yesterday we drove the twelve hours home. Now I’m tired.”

I remember that trip to Ohio. All our children were still young, and my sisters and I enjoyed getting together with our families. They were newly out of the Amish and were in a different place than I was emotionally. For many of those of us who leave the Amish, we go through a phase in which no one can say anything good about the Amish without us wanting to “set them straight.” In later journal entries, I wrote how we watched a film about the Amish and how it was romanticized. The Amish church singing evoked sad feelings for me, but I could not express that because of what I perceived as “Amish bashing.” I understood those feelings… I’d been doing it only a few years before that. Yet there were some things I missed, and church singing was one of them.

Now that all of our children have gotten older, and our lives have become more complicated, I remember the times when my sisters and our young families got together very fondly.

What Thanksgiving memories do you have? Are some of them bittersweet?

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7 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Memories”

  1. My memories are mostly good. Our family is quite spread-out, so Thanksgiving is a great time to see one another. One draw back is that with so many of the younger ones being married now, they do have to share their holidays with their spouses’ families (understandable). So, we cherish the times that we do get.

  2. We are lucky, we only have one Thanksgiving feast to attend! My husband has 7 siblings and we all gather at his sister’s house for turkey and all the fixings. The turkey is always incredible, brined for hours and then grilled in some contraption outside.

  3. A Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours, Saloma. I am thankful for all the wonderful sharing you’ve done, and continue to do, here on your blog. I’ve learned so very much!!

    My Thanksgiving memories ALWAYS include flowers, a beautiful table, and a delicious roast turkey meal with all the trimmings. Our family owned a greenhouse/floral business & we lived right next door to it, so flowers for any occasion was a given.

    Both my parents worked extremely hard, so having a day with even a “little” time off for them, was something I treasured. The business was often open for at least a little while in the morning of holidays (for all those last-minute folks) as those were the days before the grocery stores, etc. carried flowers. My mother, however, as I look back on it had almost NO time off, as she always prepared a huge feast for us.

    I remember waking to the smell of her dressing, watching the 20! lb. turkey go into the oven, the smell & taste of the pumpkin pie. My oldest sister usually came home & we always enjoyed the “long-distance” call to my married sister who lived out-of state. My only negative feeling is that my parents often invited someone who was alone to share the meal. I’m now ashamed that I resented having them there – and had no idea how to visit with them!

    Since marriage & many moves, my husband & I have always enjoyed a great, home-cooked feast of our own – no matter where we’ve been. One year, having just moved to Texas, we ate sitting on packing boxes in front of a card table! Some years we traveled many miles, as you did, to join family, but sometimes that has not been possible, so we’ve enjoyed each other. The secret, I’ve found, is to be GRATEFUL for whatever you have, and to find some joy in creating a special day for yourself (ves).

  4. Thank you, all, for sharing your memories. Ladybug, I can understand that you would have wanted more time with your parents. I agree, Thanksgiving is all about gratitude. No matter how much stress we have in our lives, there is always something to be grateful for. This year, as always, I am grateful for the relationship David and I have, for our two grown sons, and for the young woman who has just come into our lives.

    Happy Thanksgiving!


  5. Hello, Saloma! I’m a bit late with my Thanksgiving greeting and I have no excuse other than I’m supposed to be ‘retired’ but haven’t managed to convince myself!

    When I think of Thanksgiving as a child, I remember we ALWAYS had the same great foods made by my mom and Aunt Grace ALWAYS came for dinner! She usually brought her sister-in-law as a traveling companion as Uncle George had passed years before. My mom would always comment later, “Grace knows how to keep out of my way in the kitchen.” Smart woman! After dinner, Aunt Grace would “sneak” into the kitchen and have the pots and pans washed and dried before my Mom had a chance to blink. Then, mom would wash the dishes and Aunt Grace dried. I loved how they cared so much for each other and miss them terribly. Aunt Grace was my Dad’s sister and Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday, in part to Mom’s good cooking, and especially because he got to visit with his “little sister” who was older than he, but much shorter :-)

    In more recent history, our Thanksgiving has evolved from everyone getting together at somebody’s house … to … several of us are having dinner so there’s no reason for anyone to go hungry! For our own children, we cook breakfast and then dinner. If you can make it, you get to eat. I make the same dishes my mom did with a few changes … no more sweet potatoes as no one in our family likes them and we added butternut squash. I used to bake my own bread and pies, but lately it’s just been pies… too tired. Re-tired! Tired all over again!

  6. It’s strange that I have only hiccups of past Thanksgivings. In one flashback I see the snow covered ground from our large picture window and football on the tv. My grandparents are visiting, aunt, uncle, cousins. Everyone’s congregated in the kitchen where my mom is busy cooking and talking. People are jovial, joking around, especially my tall, retired fireman grandfather. Oh, he loved to joke around.
    A few short years later, sadness. Dad’s not around anymore. Things have changed so much. Divorce does that. Tears the heart out of a little girl who loved her unworthy dad so very much.
    Then, marriage and New Jersey, far away from my mother. No more family Thanksgivings like there used to be. Never again as a matter of fact. Now it’s me, hubby and a baby boy. Just us and me feeling sorry for myself.
    But time and circumstance has a way of making one get used to the way things are. One year I thought it would be nice to have other folks over, not just the four of us (had another boy in the meantime.) Why not move out of the comfort zone a bit? With hubby’s blessing I invited people over I knew didn’t have anyplace else to go. One particular year my guest list included a hermit wannabe I met at a 12-Step group. His idea of fun was being left alone. Guess he just came for the free food. Also invited a woman and her two children I met at the YMCA who were living out of a hotel and I’m quite sure running from something or someone. I didn’t ask questions. Lastly was my dear neighbor from Panama who could drive Mother Theresa to commit murder (if she were still with us) from her incessant talking. It was quite memorable and comical. Mr. Recluse was perpetually sighing into his plate because Ms. Chatty wouldn’t let up. His annoyance was clear yet polite. Afterall, he didn’t whip his plate of food in her direction. The YMCA lady was very sweet, but very suspicious. Come to find out she and Ms. Chatty went to the same college in Florida. This made for more lively conversation which irritated the Sigher. He left before the pumpkin pie was served. The woman and her children left about 5 minutes later and Ms. Chatty spewed for about another hour then left. Hubby and I enjoyed ourselves thoroughly!
    A special treat while living in NJ was witnessing the Macy’s Day Parade. Man, that was cool! Took lots of pictures.

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