My grandmother turned 88 last month. Cora Wilkinson is a silver-haired, sapphire-eyed jewel of a woman. The oldest of eight children, she grew up picking cotton on a sharecropper’s farm in Arkansas. She didn’t know she was poor, because it was the Depression and she was hardly the only one wearing cardboard shoes.
She moved to New Orleans at age 17 to become a shipyard welder. At age 20, she married my grandfather, a handsome soldier back home after 42 months in a Japanese prison camp. In the 1960s, she worked for a Baton Rouge news station. Her title was secretary (every woman was a secretary, regardless of what she did), but she was really the assistant program director. She canvassed for the National Organization for Women. She’s the only octogenarian I know with active Twitter and Facebook accounts. She’s pretty kick-ass, is what I’m saying.
Every Thanksgiving her kids, grandkids, great AND great-great grandkids rally at her house. In the back of all our minds is the thought that each Thanksgiving could be her last. This is the only explanation I can come up with for these cornball themed Thanksgivings my family is coming up with.
The first one wasn’t too bad. Everyone had to wear white shirts and jeans. Whatever. I’ve seen plenty of family portraits and engagement photos where they’re doing the white-shirt-on-a-beach thing.
This year, the concept is “hoe-down.” Plaid shirts. Bales of hay. I shudder to think what else they’ve concocted.
But my friend Elizabet had a genius idea: “If i were you I would be practicing my square dancing moves from youtube tutorials right now, planning to go so hard no one ever suggests a ho-down again…”
So that’s what I’m doing. Poring over square dancing outfits, lessons and wondering how I can wrangle eight people for the square.
New Thanksgiving slogan: Ho hard or ho home.