First Thanksgiving at Little Piney

Tammy Brown

The Peak of Fall Color

Little Piney did it’s part to create a perfect Thanksgiving setting.  Dressed in an array of golden tones, the fall colors peaked after last weekend’s first frost.

First Thanksgiving at Little Piney

Although Fall leaves provided the perfect backdrop for Thanksgiving, other aspects of country living didn’t cooperate so well. Instead of cooking pies on Wednesday night, I was trying to follow my nose to a dead mouse.  The creature had found some unreachable final resting place within smelling range of the kitchen. In spite of my best efforts, he remained unaccounted for except for a mild unpleasant odor. Just as Ken and I finished putting major appliances back in place post-search, we had an unfortunate incident with a clogged disposal, stopped-up sink, and paused dishwasher full of dishes and soapy water. All cooking and prep came to an abrupt halt for the evening; in fact, everything halted until 10:30 am on Thursday when Austen–the 24 hour plumber–graciously and expensively saved the day.

Our guests arrived as Austen left. Behind already, and with rain on the way, we decided to go for a walk while we could. This was a good decision. My step-daughter commented, “This seems like an easy-going Thanksgiving.”

This absolutely was an easy-going Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving usually means up to 14 adults and three children crowded around a table set with china and silver. We serve a large, golden turkey, southern cornbread dressing, a variety of colorful side dishes both traditional and new. The sideboard displays pecan, pumpkin, and buttermilk pies made my daughters and me. The meal requires a day of prep on Wednesday and an early start on Thursday. That is the kind of Thanksgiving my mother always provided for us, and her sisters always provided for their families. My sister and my cousins provide this for their families. Thanksgiving in our family is a lovely and dear tradition–one which I had decided to abandon this year in favor of an informal outdoor focused family fun day at Little Piney. It was an experiment that had it’s day (its rainy day), and can now be retired forever. The timing was fortunate since the kitchen malfunctions would have been disastrous otherwise, but I really missed the continuity of celebrating the way I always had before. And I missed the sisterhood of being in my kitchen doing what my sister and my cousins were doing at the same time in their kitchens. Tradition is one way we honor our mothers and our childhoods. The predictability of being served the same meal every year on Thanksgiving was the same kind of predictability we could always count on from our extended family through births, deaths, illness, joy, and natural and manmade disasters. (Yes, really–floods, a fire, hurricanes, and terrible accidents.)

Last year was the first Thanksgiving after my mother’s death. I cooked her dressing and pies and cried off and on all day. This year I tried to avoid facing that sadness again, which was a mistake. I missed her even more, thought of her just as much, and had a meal that really wasn’t very good.

We found Little Piney just over a month after my mother’s death.   The pine trees reminded me of home, where I ran barefoot on pine needles between my home and my aunts’.  This has been my healing place and my retreat, a place where I always feel their presence.  Next time I have Thanksgiving at Little Piney, I’ll do it their way.

Northern Cardinal at Little Piney
For Mom


  1. Mom, this is so beautiful. Wish we could have been there this year for your experiment! We all have wonderful memories from Thanksgivings at Gran’s too–that is truly a gift I am thankful for. Love you!!

  2. Really touched me Tammy, woven throughout is the love and presence of your mother, sisters, and you, truly beautiful, thank you for sharing.

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