Holidays were always very important in my family. It was almost the only time we could visit my grandparents, who lived 120 miles away. That may not seem like a very long way, but to a boy of twelve it seemed more like a million miles. When I was thirteen, I remember having the best Thanksgiving of all time.
|It was about seven o'clock in the morning when my father came up the stairs to wake up us boys. I have three brothers and two sisters. We boys all slept upstairs and the girls slept downstairs. Since I was always the slowest to get out of bed, Dad came straight into my room first. He shook my shoulder, but I did not move. We lived in a large, old house with poor heating. The covers tucked around my neck felt so good, I thought I would stay warm for just a few more minutes. Dad went to Mike, Scott and Robby. He returned in less than a minute. I slowly sat up and put my bare feet on the cold floor.|
"Hurry up sleepy head, or you will be left behind," he threatened on his way out. I knew he was joking, but started getting dressed anyway.
My brothers were stamping downstairs to breakfast just as I was pulling on my clothes. I quickly finished dressing after Mom yelled for me to hurry up. When I got downstairs I saw the bathroom was empty, so I ducked inside. In a house with eight people, the bathroom always seemed to be full. After a quick breakfast, we all piled into our old station wagon. Mike and I sat in the back. Sometimes Scott would sit between us, but looking out the back window often made him sick, so he sat up front with Sherry and Robby this time. Lisa, who was only two years old, sat on Mom's lap.
The other children quickly fell asleep to the hum of the tires and the roar of the engine, but Mike and I entertained ourselves. He counted telephone poles and I counted all the license plates that started with a "5". Scott woke up around telephone pole five thousand and asked if we were there yet.
Dad told him to watch for the sign that said 11 miles to go. After hearing that, he got excited every time he saw a Highway 11 marker! Finally we saw the 11-mile marker and I got excited also. Scott, Mike and I started talking simultaneously and Robby and Lisa woke up. Sherry on the other hand, could sleep through anything in the car!
When we turned onto Cemetery Drive, Mike and I cranked our heads around to get a glimpse of the old, green house where Grandpa and Grandma lived. We were elated about seeing them again and wanted freedom from the car. The brakes squeaked as we rolled to a stop next to Grandpa's shiny new car. He liked to trade in his old car for a new one about every two years. His last one was blue, but this one was white. Sherry finally woke up and we jumped out of the car.
Before we could get to the door, Grandpa and Aunt Marilyn appeared with Grandma right behind. He was in his dull green work shirt and loose fitting slacks as always. Aunt Marilyn was in a loose blue sweater and green pants. Grandma had an apron tied around her waist and little bit of flour on her forehead. We all received a hug and kiss from Aunt Marilyn and Grandma. Grandpa kissed the girls, but thankfully only hugged us boys. He shook Dad's hand and they wandered off toward the garage. Mom told Mike and I to get the bags out of the car. Since we were the oldest, we always got that chore. Scott, Sherry, Robby and Lisa went inside with Aunt Marilyn, Grandma and Mom.
As we struggled through the kitchen door with the bags, the wonderful smells hit us. Grandma had started cooking about two days before, and the kitchen was like a small piece of heaven. I could almost taste the fresh baked banana bread and pumpkin pie. I glanced at the kitchen table on my way to the living room with the bags. The table was almost covered with pots and pans, but right in the center I could see a huge turkey. Grandma was already back to work stuffing it with a mixture from one of the pots.
|After dumping the bags in the living room, Mom sent us outside. We ran over to the garage to peek inside, but Dad and Grandpa were just talking about the new car he had bought. We grabbed the baseball gloves, bat and ball Grandpa always kept in the corner and ducked outside. A neighbor boy name David Jensen came along with another boy and we played a game of baseball. It was almost noon when Aunt Pat and Uncle Les arrived with our cousins Dawn and Leslie. Since they were both girls we ignored them and continued our baseball game. About fifteen minutes later, David's mother called for him and we had to quit the game and go inside.|
I asked when we were going to eat and Grandma smiled warmly at me. She said it would be soon now. My stomach rumbled at the mouth-watering smells. Mom sent us into the living room. Grandpa, Uncle Les and Dad were all watching a football game. Scott and Robby were playing on the floor with some toys from the big box Grandpa kept in the corner. The girls were upstairs with Aunt Marilyn, probably doing girl things. When Grandpa told us we could have a soda, we ran to the storage room and jerked open the spare refrigerator. The entire bottom shelf was filled with every imaginable flavor of soda. We spent five minutes digging through for our favorite.
After what seemed like a lifetime, Mom called for Mike and I to help set up the table. Dawn was recruited to assist us too. The big table in the dining room had been pulled out and the card table was set up in the corner. Aunt Pat handed us plates and silverware and we laid them on the tables. After the glasses, cups and napkins were in place, Mom again sent us to the living room. She told us to set up four TV trays. This time the wait was short. After about five minutes, Grandma walked in and said, "Dinner is ready." Everyone moved into the dining room. The table was covered with so much food, that the plates were ready to fall off. It all smelled and looked delicious.
Mom sat Scott, Sherry, Robby and Leslie down at the card table. All the adults, except Aunt Marilyn, sat at the big table. Uncle Les said a short prayer and we filled our plates. Aunt Marilyn, Dawn, Mike and I took our food into the living room where the TV trays waited. It was the best meal I could ever remember tasting. I went back for seconds and even thirds. My favorite was the turkey and stuffing. The pumpkin pie and ice cream we had for dessert was my favorite also. Nobody could cook like Grandma!
|Once the meal was over, Grandpa, Uncle Les, and Dad returned to the living room to finish watching the football game.
Dad said he needed a nap, and a few minutes after he laid down on the couch, I heard soft snoring. Mike and I wandered
outside as Mom and Aunt Pat began washing dishes. We spent the afternoon playing in the strawberry patch out back
near the woods. Just as it was getting dark, Mom called us in to say goodbye. Grandma handed us a basket full of
turkey sandwiches and thick slices of pumpkin pie for the drive home, then kissed us again. We waved through the
station wagon window as Dad pulled out of the driveway.
It was a very happy day. All of us children dozed off as we rolled down the road toward Roseau and home. I remember thinking nothing could be better than a day at Grandma and Grandpa's, especially if that day is Thanksgiving!
Holiday with the Burnell's
Part 6 - Winter in Minnesota
For information about Minnesota in general visit here or here.
Visit the home page of International Falls where I was born.
Also see the home page of Roseau, where I was raised.
Thunderbird Lodge is where my brother, Michael, works.
See Hayes Lake State Park, a few miles from where we lived.
Lake of the Woods where we often went fishing.
Find out more about Minnesota's natural resources.
The Virtual Sweden Site can tell you about where my grandparents came from.
Seattle, Washington is where I visited my Aunt Joyce and Uncle Maynard and saw the Space Needle.
Visit the International Peace Gardens. Many of my great-uncles and cousins helped build this beautiful place.
Dad worked at the Polaris plant for several years.
Both Mom and Dad worked at Marvin Windows at one time or another.