As we near Thanksgiving Day, I’ve started thinking about traditions we’ve had in my family, both as a child and an adult.

We lived in Illinois, where all my aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins also lived. Holidays were a festive time, with each family beginning their day at church, going home for breakfast, usually homemade bread and cinnamon rolls at our house, then meeting at my grandparents in the afternoon for a holiday feast.

My dad was one of six children and my brothers, sister and I were the oldest of the grandchildren. There were lots of babies, and I remember my Aunt Monica always seemed to be expecting.


We had the traditional Thanksgiving meal: turkey, stuffing, yams, green bean casserole and rolls. Everything was prepared in my Grandmother's very small kitchen.

After the meal was enjoyed and the clean-up was done, always by the women, the large table in the front room became the location for a riotous game of penny-ante poker.

Penny-ante poker was a staple of every family gathering. My Dad and my four uncles, my grandparents and aunts all joined the game. When my great-uncles and aunts traveled the 70 miles from Belvidere to join in, my brothers and sister and I were delighted. They gave us a nickel to stand by them as good-luck charms.

It may not seem like the traditional family tradition, but for me growing up in Illinois it was. It was a joyous, loving time. Most of the family have passed away, but they live in my heart.


Some years ago, when we lived in California, we had a chest freezer in the garage. I had a frozen turkey in there I had purchased on sale a month before. (I always look for bargains).

I pulled it out to check the weight as I mentally calculated how long it would take to thaw and then cook. If was wrapped in plastic netting with a handle as so many are. As I lifted it to eye level to check the label the bottom of the netting gave way and the frozen turkey landed on my left foot.

The next day I limped to my doctor with what I knew were broken toes.

As I explained to him how my injury had occurred, he looked at my broken toes and said “looks like it was a 13-pounder."

It was indeed a 13 pounder!

He must see a lot of broken toes around the holidays.


Jolene Wallace is the consumer horticulture educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. Contact her at 518-561-7450 or

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