Last week Roger and I celebrated our first Thanksgiving in Belize. We spent the evening celebrating with a half dozen or so new friends that live near us in the Tres Cocos area of San Pedro. We came together at a neighborhood pot luck Thanksgiving dinner at the SandBar, a beach side restaurant and bar a short distance away. There must have been close to a hundred people there and plenty of food of every sort you can imagine. We had the traditional dishes of turkey and ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn bread, mac and cheese and a great selection of ethnic dishes as well. My friend Shirley made the most delicious sweet potato casserole! It was a delightful evening sharing the holiday with friends that we already knew and those that we met there.
It was a wonderful way to spend our first Thanksgiving away from family and friends in the states. I think that this holiday is the most meaningful to both of our families. It’s the one holiday that Roger’s family will all get together at his sister Barbara’s home for dinner and games for the four generations that were assembled this year and I am sorry to have missed that.
In my family the Thanksgiving holiday really sums up the soul of my late mother, Billie. Her giving and nurturing really shone through on Thanksgiving and even in our toughest times she always had enough to share with everybody that sat at our table. We were the house that was open to anybody that was away from home or alone on the holiday and you were instantly one of the family. My sister Jami often brought home someone from school that needed a family for Thanksgiving, or an elderly neighbor that was alone, or a co-worker that was single and alone, all were welcome at Billie’s table.
When we were younger, Billie owned the restaurant at the Brownsville Hotel in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. Billie’s Purple Fork. This was probably in the eighties and my younger siblings were either in high school or going off to college. I was already out of the house and on the west coast by then. Every one of my sisters and my brother, the baby of the family put their time in either waiting tables or working in the kitchen, some of them being fired more than once. It was truly a family affair in more ways than by blood. Being a small town, Billie knew everyone. If an elderly customer was overdue coming around she would go and check on them. If someone was ill, she would send them food to their home without charge. On Mother’s Day, all mothers ate for free, etc. That’s just who she was and feeding people was her way of showing them love.
However, Thanksgiving was the icing on the cake. The doors were thrown open for everyone in town regardless of means to come and share Thanksgiving with my family. Nobody paid a cent and she would put on a wonderful spread with all of the fixings. She would have full tables all day long of poor families, homeless folks, elderly people from the local rest home, friends of Jami’s from the nearby University, you name it. My sisters would provide service and Mom would do the cooking with my brother in the kitchen. All of the tables would be put together in long banquets so that people would have to sit family style nd talk to each other, commune with their neighbors and get to know each other. At the end of the evening, my family would sit down to enjoy their meal after everyone else was taken care of. That’s just who she was and I am grateful to have grown up with her example. I reflect on these thing now as it is the tenth anniversary of her passing in November 2006. It is also the week that the old Brownville Hotel was demolished. Seeing the photos of the destruction of a big part of our lives and memories brought up a well of feelings.