She recalls the famed sweet potato and marshmallow dish. The gelatins, corn, green bean casserole, rolls and steaming heaps of mashed potatoes.
But what Shorehaven Dir. of Food Services Barb (Butler) Dehnert most remembers, is her family of more than 50 gathered around two 20 lb. roasting turkeys in an overcrowded bungalow on Harvard St.
“My parents would get up at 4:30 a.m. and begin preparing the Thanksgiving meal,” said Dehnert. Nine children, great and great-great grandchildren would descend on the home by midmorning. “My dad and brothers would return home from deer hunting, hanging a buck in the back yard.” Beverages were lined up in the garage and screaming children would race in, grab one, and race back into the house. “We had to be careful and announce when we needed to open the oven door, or the kids would hit the door coming back in,” laughed Dehnert. Everyone was assigned a side dish to pass. Barb is now the self-proclaimed gravy maker and proud of it, “Because no one wanted to make the gravy.” Diners ate on the floor, on the stairs and across the living room. “Wherever you could find a seat, you sat.”
Barb’s mother Sally always presented the children with advent calendars and handmade Christmas ornaments. Many years later, after suffering a stroke, Sally still gives the gifts. Living in a senior care facility, her family is equipped to “bring mom home” for the holiday. “She would call dad at 5 a.m. and make sure he’s up to do the work. For weeks ahead of time, she would make his grocery list with all the specific ingredients for the meal.”
Turkey Bowl football in the back yard and NFL on TV, paper plates cleared and pies sliced for the taking, Barb said her family accommodated the crowding, the noise and the laughter. “We were stacked on top of each other, and it was all craziness,” said Dehnert. “And we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
It’s going to be different this year for the Butler crew on Harvard Street. “When I called my mom yesterday she said she knew we can’t be all together this Thanksgiving. But she said, ‘I have an idea! We can plan on one heck of a Valentine’s party.’ I promised to throw her a really big one.”