The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Thanksgiving Smells and Christmas Memories

By Sylvia Sampson © 1991

Issue: December, 1991

I am a late riser, always have been. Taking advantage of any chance I got to sleep late. I was the last of my six brothers and sisters to crawl out of bed, and was always late for school. But then there were the weekends and holidays. Even after the sun came up and filled the room with light and heat I would pull the covers over my head and do my best to sleep until noon.

My parents were just the opposite. They were up before the sun. Half of their day was gone before I even opened my eyes. They complained constantly about my lazy habit but never bothered to wake me up on those rare and pleasant days.

As I grew older I developed rules to guide my life and at the top of the list was to sleep as late as possible whenever possible. Heaven help anyone attempting to pull me from my warm and cozy bed. Nothing short of fire or earthquake could deflect my temper.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule and I had mine. Two special days each year pulled me from my sleepy haven. Long before the sun reached my room wonderful spicy smells would tingle my nose. I take a deep breath and test the odor. It is strong and sharp but there is another following it. The soft scent of lemon fills my nostrils.

It is Thanksgiving morning. The sharp smell of sage confirms that the turkey and dressing is already being cooked. Mom and Dad have been awake for hours for one of Dad's rules is that the turkey has to be in the oven by four, and on the rack below it I know is a pan of cornbread for the dressing.

Among the many pies and cakes we will have is a lemon pie. My favorite. No matter how much I want to pull the covers over my head and return to the dreams I just shook off I keep thinking about the bowls I can scrape or the dressing I can sample before it is returned to the oven to brown.

It has always been this way. Mom and Dad up before the sun with Thanksgiving dinner cooked before all the company arrives. Mom says that leaves plenty of time for visiting. There is no breakfast. All seven of us are allowed to sample and enjoy the many dishes that will soon cover the huge table in the dining room.

The kitchen is Mom's private place except on this special day and then Dad becomes Boss. Ordering onions to be cut, celery washed, and just the right number of eggs boiled for his famous dressing. That is one reason we always invite all of the family to our house for dinner. It is the one day Dad proves that he can create a wonderful meal.

Knowing that I can't resist the temptations waiting for me in the kitchen I throw off the covers, gladly breaking my most important rule.

Winter is a wonderful time to sleep. Just knowing that a deep layer of snow is surrounding the house is an extra incentive to snuggle deep under the covers on my bed. During Christmas vacation I promise myself that I am going to spend as much of it as I can in bed.

One draw back to spending so much time in bed is that you lose track of it, and I am reminded once again of a special day by the sounds and smells coming from the other end of the house. This is the one day I don't want to sleep late, and the one time all my brothers and sisters do their best to leave me in bed.

Once again Mom and Dad are in the kitchen. Christmas dinner is more than half done but that isn't all that forces my eyes wide open. I can distinctly hear the wrapping paper on the presents being hastily torn apart. If I don't get up now there won't be any bowls to scrape and my presents will be buried under mounds of discarded wrapping paper.

This is Mom's day to order Dad about and she is taking full advantage of it. Dad obediently lowers the huge honey glazed ham onto the oven rack after removing a chocolate cake that had just finished baking. I missed the bowl on that one but I knew there would be more.

Ignoring the kitchen for now I dive under the tree. The next half hour is spent in tearing open any package with my name on it. Then I set back and remember I just broke my rule to sleep as late as I could, but I wouldn't ever want to miss my Thanksgiving smells and Christmas memories.