Cooleemee woman savors family at holidays

Published 8:48 am Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Earl and JoAnn Lester usually have 25 to 30 people at their home for Thanksgiving dinner, but this year, due to several of the family reaching to other family members, about 10 will be present.

On Monday, she was ready to start clanging some pots.   

“I’m still cooking the same amount of food, I can’t un-cook. All I know to do is cook a lot and I’ll just send it home.”

Her mother’s favorite pie is the Old Fashioned Luxurious Apricot Raisin Walnut Pie. Joann says it’s loved by many older people because it reminds them of the old-timey raisin pies. She adds more ingredients, and it always makes the dessert list.

JoAnn makes her own cornbread and uses that for dressing with onion, celery, sage and eggs. Stuffing the turkey is not liked that well in her family. Of course, there will be plenty of gravy to go on top.

Creamed corn, broccoli salad, buttermilk biscuits, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole and fruit salad are also on the menu.

JoAnn hasn’t made a Thankful Tree in a long time so she put to use her corkscrew willow tree branches and put it into a flowerpot. She adorns it with paper leaves and each family member states what they are thankful for.

Ever since her first grandchild, 25 years ago, they have always given each grandchild a Christmas ornament at Thanksgiving.   By the time they are 25 and possibly starting a family of their own, they have a good collection.

Their family Christmas is always the Sunday before Christmas. They allow the in laws to have time with their family and they realize the children would prefer to be at their home on Christmas Day, so they go to their homes.

The family prepares three rooms full of mostly heavy finger foods, and they eat all day.

They each take part in the Dirty Santa game and then comes the highlight of the day.

Earl used to work for a food service and there came a joke where he would wrap up a restaurant size garbanzo bean can and someone in the family would be the lucky recipient.

It didn’t matter where the can went for a whole year; it had to return to the next family gathering so the next recipient would get it.

“You think you are getting this wonderful gift and it ends up being the beans.”

One time their son Chris duct-taped the beans to the steering wheel while Earl had to deliver an important item to the airport.

This year, JoAnn has the beans and it is her turn to hand them to someone else.   

“The beans will be decorated, I don’t know who the recipient is going to be, but they are going to be surprised.”

They will put a number in a pot this year for each person and then the number will be drawn.     

The Lester family focuses on presence instead of presents.

With tears in her eyes says, “We love you here, that’s what it is all about, your presence.”

JoAnn says after the last bit of pumpkin pie has been eaten at Thanksgiving, it’s time to start getting ready for Christmas. Thanksgiving is Earl’s favorite time and he will not allow the transition to begin until those rules are met.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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