My mom always had a huge Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. I have old footage from 1955-1959 that shows a huge table that ran the length of the house filled with guests...and most were not family members. They were people who were alone, couples who had no family, and families who had no place to go. This tradition continued for mom until a few years before her death. She loved a crowd.
My sis and I have the most fond food memories of putting together the stuffing mix for the bird..always a bunch of women in the kitchen..chopping away and tasting. My sis, Pat, was the "official taster" right before we stuffed the bird. I miss that so much.
One year, my kids and I were driving to Wyoming from Billings, MT. They were very young. It was snowing like mad. We saw this old guy hitch-hiking, along the road. He had white hair..and a frozen white beard...and they thought it was Santa. I stopped and offered him a ride. He said to just drop him off at the next truck stop. Well, I just kept driving. We sang songs, ate snacks, and the boys kept asking, "are we almost there?."
We arrived at my moms house and the old guy was scared to death! He didn't look so good and didn't smell so good either. I assured him that all would be well. I actually rang the bell..and when my mom answered, I said "guess who's coming to dinner?" She laughed, we all came in. I introduced "John" to her, etc. She welcomed him, as did everyone else. Mom was especially pleased that I was not dating the poor old guy. [Hey.. it was the 70's] She and my step-dad fed him and took him to The Cook Hotel..where they paid for his room for 3 days, gave him clean clothing, told him to take a bath, and assured him someone would be back to pick him up the morning. We weren't sure he'd still be there the next day. Turns out, he spent the holidays with us.
He was smart, funny, and almost toothless. It was a great Thanksgiving..we had about 20 people that year. We eventually took "John" to the truck stop, as he wished, and we never saw him again. I think of him every year about this time.