As the shadows lengthened, the men began gathering around the tables like wasps drawn to sweet fruit, cozying up to their women and trying to talk them out of some of the food before the feast officially began. Ma Ivey ruled her dirt yard like an empress and wasn’t above slapping a reaching hand with a wooden spoon when they drew too close. Finally though, the last of the cane was put through the mill and the syrup cooked down, and as the night sky filled with stars the feast began to a chorus of tree frogs and crickets serenading the workers. They lined up before the platters of roast pig and venison, quails, turkey, and doves. Even a possum or two joined the potatoes in the smoldering coals.
There was fish stew and slow-cooked turtle, gator tail and fresh bass, and plenty of home-brewed ale and scuppernong wine to wash it down.
The ever present corn was there, too, as meal, mush, bread, pone, grits, and “roasenears,” cooked in the hot coals. Julia grinned to herself. There would be plenty of cobs for the privies after tonight’s feast.
The children and old folks were served first, then the men, then the women took for themselves, the fires from the pits and fat pine torches lighting up the yard. By the time Julia had her plate filled—and Rand had his second serving—the men were rosining their fiddle bows and bringing out the banjos and whistles.
Rand made room for Julia to sit beside him, and held up an object in his hand.
“Look, the wishbone!”
“And that means…what?”
“It means you and me got to make a wish.”
He showed her how to grasp the bone, and warned her it would take some strength to make it snap since it hadn’t dried out yet.
“So give it a good tug and make a wish.”
“What should I wish for, Rand?”
He looked at her, his face half lit from the fire, and for a moment she thought he was someone else, someone she didn’t know. Then he smiled and said, “Wish for your heart’s desire, darlin’. That’s what I’m goin’ to wish for.”
They tugged the bone, and it broke with a crack that sounded too loud in the night air.
Julia held the larger piece. “I wished we could always be as happy as we are right now.”
Happy Thanksgiving to all, and may your blessings be bountiful, and your turkey tender and moist.