I woke at 3:00 am from a dream that Ghengis Khan and the Golden Horde were encamped nearby and heading our way — not to overrun us, but to join us for Thanksgiving dinner, in which case there would definitely not be enough side dishes. I nearly got up right then to do the vegetables, but was able to get back to sleep for a couple of hours instead.

For Thanksgiving Day, the only possible Christmas song is “Over the River and Through the Woods.” Most of us don’t even know that the song used to be sung as a Christmas carol. It was written in 1844 by Lydia Maria Child, a feminist and abolitionist best known for her book The American Frugal Housewife. She was one of the first American women to make a living as a writer.

Here is a MIDI file, in case you can’t sing it from memory:


When my children were small, we really did go over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving and for Christmas. We lived in the woods ourselves, and so did my parents, and we crossed the Kings River on our way (also the War Eagle and Pigeon Fork, but the song says nothing about creeks).

My husband liked to get out of bed 15 minutes before time to leave. By then, I had already spent three hours dressing up the children in their handmade matching outfits, arranging our elaborate additions to the menu on fancy plates which then had to be watched closely through the 40-mile drive (mostly on dirt roads), and otherwise driving everyone mad. I always felt that, if my husband had gotten up earlier and helped, everything would have been simpler. However, the entire holiday frantic-ness was my own, since no one else cared one bit, so he was probably right to skip it. We do have some really lovely holiday pictures from those days, though.

I am a lot calmer now than I used to be. I still enjoy doing all the fussy stuff, even though my children will no longer allow me to dress them up as though they were dolls. And, at the moment, I have a whole lot of vegetables calling my name.  I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, with exactly the amount of fuss you personally want.