The horse didn't know the way, and there weren't any woods on the Kansas prairie, but to Grandmother's house we went. Actually, it was great-grandmother's house and Grandmother went too. Those were wonderful times with lasting memories. I was too young and full of myself then to realize that when I entered Grandmother Alley's house on such occasions, I was witnessing an academy performance of cooking skills. Grandmothers, aunts and even cousins qualified as entrants, but I think Great Aunt Maude Alley would have won the Oscar. After all, it was her kitchen.
The greatest delight of country children was to get to play with cousins of the same age. At home I usually had duties to perform at meal time, but with so many grown women in the kitchen and dining rooms, we younger cousins roamed free. Toys? Who needed toys? There was a bike or two to be shared.
There were uncles and older cousins to chase and torment us, and lots of older people to fuss over us. Sometimes we were rounded up and hauled in to pay the proper courtesy to older aunts and uncles. Sometimes someone had a trinket for you. What did it matter that the beautiful new "eversharp" pencil had Gray's Elevator printed on it? It was bright and shiny, and it had lovely swirl patterns in the yellow casings. Ah, my kingdom for a tablet to write on. The pity was that there was a war in Europe, and paper was very hard to come by, but never mind. The pencil was stunning. Sometimes I even got home with it.
The table was loaded with serving dishes of every size. It's funny, but I don't remember the meats. I do remember the gravy and the dressings. The array of desserts was confusing, and cannily many pies or cakes were added later. The children always ate first, but since the adults were standing around waiting patiently, our choices had some governance. Then the men filled their plates while the women kept the table stocked as they filtered into the groupings. It was also understood one didn't go back for seconds until everyone had filled a plate.
My favorite thing was Aunt Maude's home canned garden green beans. I don't know what she did to them, but I've never tasted green beans like that since. Aunt Maude watched me like a hawk around her green beans or her home canned peaches for that matter. The supply was limited so she needed to do that. There was sort of an unwritten rule that you could have all the food you wanted, but you would not take more than you could eat. I don't remember hearing anyone say that, but somehow it was understood.
Older people got the sofa seating or chairs. Gender did not count if I remember correctly. We young ones found a spot or a step, and we were happy just to have each other's company. They called it eating buffet style. I found it less confining than sitting at the table and minding your manners.
Sometimes the family got together on a particular Sunday, but Thanksgiving was an occasion. I don't remember church on Thanksgiving Day, unlike Easter which was good for two or three services. I suppose the ladies were too busy cooking. Their efforts were memorable, and everyone seemed to have a good time. We certainly had prayers of thanks, but then we always did. We just gave more thanks at Thanksgiving.