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Seniors share Thanksgiving memories

by Minden Press-Herald

People across the U.S. will sit down to dine with their families and friends on Thanksgiving. Local residents were gathered at Webster Parish Council on Aging and shared their thoughts with the Minden Press-Herald.

Evelyn Brooks, who is from England, and her husband Mike have been married for 41 years. It was not until after coming to the states that she celebrated her first Thanksgiving in 1976.

“We don’t celebrate thanksgiving in England,” Brooks explained. “It is a unique American holiday. When we lived in Illinois, we would go to his grandmother’s house with the whole family.”

Evelyn and Mike Brooks share Thanksgiving memories after a round of bingo at Webster Parish Council on Aging.

Evelyn and Mike Brooks share Thanksgiving memories after a round of bingo at Webster Parish Council on Aging.

Her husband recalled fighting over oyster dressing with his siblings.

“Even though it isn’t my history, I really enjoy the spirit of it- getting together and the food,” Evelyn said.

Ginette Wooden, a Council on Aging worker, is from France and also adopted Thanksgiving traditions.

“In France, we do not have Thanksgiving, however I do celebrate it with my children,” Wooden said. “I enjoy Thanksgiving and getting together with family. I come from a country where we really get together very often. This is important for togetherness.”

Wooden said when her children were younger, they would bring friends and guests to Thanksgiving dinner, which had an open invitation.

“It’s important for people to feel close to one another, belong and feel welcome,” she said.

Elizabeth Strange grew up in Zwolle but has been a Minden resident for several years. She is one of 11 siblings and the family is planning on celebrating Thanksgiving with their mother, Maggie Callender, who is 89-years-old.

“We all get together every year, and our tradition focuses on cooking red pepper soup,” Strange said. “It’s important for us to get together, cook with one another and spend time together. It honors how we were raised and the things we were taught.”

Strange said her mother has 22 grandchildren and that enjoying family is of the utmost importance.

“It’s hard to keep up with how many great-grandchildren momma has now. When your family is so big one person can’t cook a Thanksgiving meal by themselves- that’s a blessing because that is a large, loving family unit,” she said.

Martha Grigsby agreed with her and noted that no matter who makes up a family, it is important to cherish people.

“Our Thanksgiving is built around family and while we were a large family at one time, most of our family has passed,” Grigsby said. “Out of seven siblings, it is now myself, a sister and a brother.

It’s important family members feel like they really know one another and can keep in touch with each other.

Grigsby said each family member has a role to play in the family unit and with time, roles change.

“We were brought up like a village,” she said. “My grandfather and grandmother were always around. In my younger days we would
go to their house. When they passed we had Thanksgiving dinner at my mother and father’s. Now that they have passed, we go to my sister’s house in Cullen.”

Grigsby agrees with Strange and said celebrating around food is nearly as important as celebrating family.

“I remember my favorite thing about Thanksgiving meal is chicken dressing and cakes- you can smell it for a week and they would really be cooking,” Grigsby said. “When I was younger, having those treats was really something to be thankful for. Back when things like apples and oranges were treats and gifts. Kids today do not have that same understanding.”

As important as menu tradition and being thankful for “grocery” blessings is to Grigsby, she places high emphasis on being thankful for loved ones.

“It’s important that families get together so they can keep the family strong, show one another love and keep it going,” Grigsby continued. “You don’t want a family to decay.”

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