The weekend before Thanksgiving, Robin and I, our three children, their spouses and fiancée, a daughter-in-law’s mother, and our five grandchildren had a great time at the Buckhorn in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We celebrated Thanksgiving and also exchanged our Christmas gifts—thus the name, “Thanksmas.” We’ve had Thanksmas many times through the years, but this was our first time to gather at a beautiful place in the mountains.
Early in the spring, our son Steve had reserved two rental houses for us at the Buckhorn, a favorite resort where he and his wife Tonya often go for “RWG’s”—romantic weekend getaways. They know the owners well, and we were able to get a big discount on our family’s weekend. We would spend Friday and Saturday nights and have delicious breakfasts furnished for us in the Buckhorn Inn’s private dining room on Saturday and Sunday mornings—all as part of our rental fees. Then we could have our own traditional Thanksgiving meal in the larger rental house on Saturday afternoon, and all of us would work together on that.
After breakfast on Saturday, I began my stint in the kitchen, first preparing a large cabbage slaw, which I placed in the fridge along with the chilled cranberry sauce. Then I peeled and cooked sweet potatoes for a sweet potato casserole. With only one small oven available, we had worked it out for me to bake my casserole first and place it in an insulated casserole carrier until dinnertime.
Next on the agenda, Mike, our daughter’s fiancée, emptied large cans of green beans into a crock pot to simmer. When he turned on the stove to sauté bacon and onions to go in the green beans, the burner’s drip pan under the heating element caught fire! It was so encrusted with grease that it flamed up, but Mike was quick on the draw. He slid the skillet off the burner, cut off the switch, and blew out the fire. Then he was able to continue frying on another burner. Later, I scrubbed off some of that caked-on grease from the first burner’s drip pan. No need for a future renter to deal with a similar fire!
Our daughter Sharon had prepared a large pan of cornbread dressing several days before our celebration, and she brought it already baked, but frozen, in an ice chest to the Buckhorn. That worked out great! We thawed it in the fridge overnight and, after the sweet potato casserole came out, we placed the dressing in the oven to heat for a while. The rolls baked last.
Tonya peeled and cooked potatoes for mashed potatoes, and she also made a scrumptious gravy, using a special recipe she had found online. Marty, our younger son, sliced the honey-baked ham and the smoked turkey he had brought from home, and Anna, his wife, set out the chocolate and pumpkin pies she had prepared ahead and brought to serve as dessert.
The staff at the Buckhorn brought in two long tables with folding chairs for us to set up in the large living room of the rental house, and they also furnished us with long white tablecloths and a set of fourteen dinner plates, dessert plates, glasses, cups and saucers, and silverware. They made sure that we had all that we needed.
When everything was ready, we all stood in a large circle, holding hands around our tables, and Steve offered a beautiful prayer, thanking God for our many blessings and for our family. Then we adjourned to the kitchen where we picked up our food, buffet-style. Everything tasted so good! After our meal, we waited awhile before we had dessert, and we used that in-between time to enjoy several rituals we’ve been doing at Thanksmas through the years.
First, Marty read James Whitcomb Riley’s poem, “When the Frost is on the Punkin,” and we all chimed in together on the final line of each stanza: “When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.” This was a favorite poem of my dad’s, who was also a Hoosier, and he always read it at Thanksgiving.
Then Audrey, our oldest granddaughter, now seventeen, read her poem “The Night before Thanksmas.” This is a parody of “The Night before Christmas” that she wrote when she was only nine years old. It begins with this line: “Twas the night before Thanksmas when all through the house, not a creature was perkey, not even a turkey.” Fun!
After that, Maddie gave her annual ornament gift to each grandchild—angels for Audrey and Emily, a snowman for Libbey, a gingerbread woman for Lily Grace and a gingerbread man for Sam.
Finally, we opened all our Christmas gifts to each other. Maddie had also filled a stocking with small surprises for each one there, and Sharon, Tonya, and Anna had filled Maddie’s stocking with surprises too.
Times like these are so special, and they get even more precious as the years go by. Someday Robin and I will not be able to do these things with our family. However, we will always have this happy Thanksmas at the Buckhorn to remember.
I’m sure you and your loved ones have many happy memories too.