When I was a child, the day before Thanksgiving was always the day that we packed our suitcases into the car and went to the farm. My mother was raised on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, and when her father died many decades earlier, my mother’s brother took over farming. The excitement only grew as the day went on and each mile marker was passed, bringing us closer and closer to my mother’s childhood home. A place where I could run around to my heart’s content, checking on the baby pigs, wandering around the farm machinery building, and walking to the natural well that the family had named “Boy Blue.”
I am the youngest of all of my cousins. Number ten of ten. My oldest cousin is 17 years older than me, and he, along with other older cousins and my brother, can’t come because they live too far away. Even still, I have plenty of cousins to hang out with, and all of my aunts and uncles are here.
As we walk up the stairs into the old white farmhouse, I can smell the smells of farm and good food. We carry our suitcases up the narrow, steep steps. I will either be bunking with my cousins in their room, or we may camp out on the living room floor. My mom will sleep in her childhood bedroom.
The first night is filled with talking, telling stories of long, long, ago, laughing, playing games, and watching TV. If I get tired of what is happening in the living room, I can go and sit at the dining room table and join in on the game, or I can go into the TV room and see what my cousins are watching, or I can go into the kitchen and listen to my mom and her sisters talk about stories of my grandmother and the older generation of relatives. Once I tire of that I can go outside and investigate the farm.
On Thanksgiving Day, the women prepared the typical turkey dinner with all of the fixings. The adult table held all of my aunts and uncles and a few of my older cousins. I, of course, sat at the kids table. There was always a big plate of black olives for us to stick onto our fingers. Wiggling our fat black fingers at one another, we would slurp the olives off one by one until all of our fingers were empty. Then we would reload and do it over and over again until all of the black olives were gone.