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I'm Thankful To Be Home...Being Home Together by Kerry Madden

I am very thankful to Gina Misiroglu of Red Room who put me in touch with the AOL and encouraged me to write a Thanksgiving essay. I so appreciate the community of authors she's brought together.




PITT STADIUM, The Madden Family, 1970something...

Kids from Left to Right: Duffy, Keely, Casey, Kerry (in 7th Grade!)...and Mom and Dad, Coach Joe Madden and Janis Madden.

I'm Thankful for ... Being Home Together

Kerry Madden

Special to AOL News  (Nov. 25) -- As kids growing up in the 1970s, we all had our jobs to contribute to the Thanksgiving meal. My sister microwaved the jar of Cheez Whiz to drizzle on top of the broccoli. One brother poured the milk to the brim in all of the wine glasses except those belonging to my parents. The other brother had the job of opening the can of cranberries to slide onto a bed of iceberg lettuce.

We didn't even know there was any other kind of cranberries until we grew up, and I began making "real" cranberries in boiling water and sugar. My mother still preferred canned cranberries for Thanksgiving, so we began serving both. When my son was around 4 years old, he noticed the perfect ridges in the mold of canned cranberries. He looked at my mother with awe, and said, "How did you get the cranberries to do that?"

My mother replied, "Secret family recipe."

As a kid, I made the pies, which meant a frozen pumpkin pie until I grew ambitious and began to make homemade apple pies. I was, however, under direct orders to do any and all baking the night before so to as not to blast the kitchen with trails of flour and sugar and lemon juice.

Mom baked the turkey on low for hours and whipped up homemade mashed potatoes and spicy sausage dressing. During commercial breaks in the football games, Dad carved the turkey with a doubled-bladed electric carving knife, shaving the turkey into great piles of white and dark meat. Mom also made the gravy with flour and turkey drippings, adding "Kitchen Bouquet" to darken the gravy. She worried each year whether or not she was doing it right, and it always tasted delicious.

My dad was a football coach for 30 years in college and the pros, but I remember Thanksgiving of 1980 when he was coaching Special Teams for the Detroit Lions in his first televised game as a professional coach. The game went into overtime, and Dad's Special Teams kicked off to the Chicago Bears, who ran the ball back for a touchdown. Overtime was over in a matter of seconds. I had that horrible sick feeling that only a coach's kid can have at such swift defeat. Dad was quiet after the game, and I remember we found a cafe in the bitter cold of Detroit.

Mom said matter-of-factly, "We'll have Thanksgiving on Sunday."

A few years after the Detroit Lions loss, I was an exchange student at Manchester University in England. Thanksgiving came around and... 


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  KERRY MADDEN is the author of the Maggie Valley Trilogy, published by Viking Children's Books. The trilogy includes Gentle's Holler (2005), Louisiana's Song (2007) and Jessie's Mountain (2008), set in the heart of Appalachia in the Smoky Mountains. Her first novel, Offsides, was a New York Public Library Pick for the Teen Age in 1997. Her book Writing Smarts, published by American Girl, is full of story sparks for young writers. Her latest book, Harper Lee: Up Close, published by Viking, made Booklist's Ten Top Biographies of 2009 for Youth. Madden teaches creative writing at UAB and writes the occasional essay for the Los Angeles Times and A Good Blog Is Hard to Find among others. www.kerrymadden.com.





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