Wonder what Thanksgiving is like in an Amish home? This excerpt is a sneak peek from book 2, A New Home for Lily, which will release in the new year. The entire Adventure of Lily Lapp series is based on the Amish childhood of Mary Ann Kinsinger, who was raised Old Order Amish and blogs on A Joyful Chaos. Enjoy!
One evening after supper, Mama asked the family to come to the kitchen table. She had spread a newspaper out on the middle of the table and dumped a bowl of hickory nuts on it. In front of Papa’s seat was a wooden cutting board. Papa pounded nut by nut with a hammer until they cracked open. Then he would pass the cracked nuts to Lily or Joseph to scoop out the nutmeat. Lily hated this chore.
It had been fun to gather the hickory nuts in the woods. Papa had found several hickory nut trees, so Lily and Joseph and Dannie had searched in the grass and leaves until they had found enough nuts to fill a big bowl. Papa said they should leave the rest of the nuts for the squirrels because they would need those nuts to eat during the long cold winter. “There’s plenty of food in the basement for us,” Papa explained. “We don’t need to take a lot of nuts away from the squirrels.”
Lily was glad there was a limit to nut collecting. Trying to get the nutmeat out of the shells was long, hard, boring work. Hickory nuts were the worst nuts of all and her fingers would be stained brown. She wondered how the squirrels managed to get nutmeat out of those shells with only their big front teeth as tools.
Finally, the last nut was cracked and shelled. Papa scraped all the nutshells into the trash can while Mama covered the bowl of nutmeats and put them into the cupboard. They would stay there until Thanksgiving.
Lily loved Thanksgiving almost as much as Christmas. On Wednesday, school was dismissed an hour early. Lily and Joseph ran all the way home to help Mama get everything ready for tomorrow’s big meal. When they burst into the kitchen, Mama was toasting the hickory nuts on the stove. They smelled good, all nice and sweet and cozy. Lily couldn’t wait until tomorrow.
For the first time, Mama let Lily help her make the special Thanksgiving pudding—layered with different flavors of orange and vanilla. It was as beautiful to gaze at as it was to eat. Mama told her to put the bowl in the refrigerator and then she went upstairs to tend to baby Paul. Lily opened the refrigerator, but it was jam packed with other dishes Mama had prepared. At first, Lily wasn’t sure what to do, but then she had an idea. A brilliant idea. Just brilliant. It was cold outside, even colder than inside the refrigerator. So Lily simply set the big bowl of pudding on the porch and covered it with a kitchen towel. And then she saw a bright red cardinal at the bird feeder and she forgot all about the pudding.
Mama called Lily in to help with the turkey. Lily’s favorite! Earlier today, Mama had roasted a big turkey. Now, it was time to pick all the meat off into bite-sized pieces. In the big roasting pan, Mama added diced bread to the turkey, plus seasonings. She poured turkey broth over everything and let Lily mix it all together. Lily’s mouth watered at the thought of how delicious this turkey would be tomorrow. It was the best way to eat turkey. The very best.
The next morning, Lily jumped out of bed as soon as she heard Mama’s light footsteps on the stairs. She didn’t want to miss a single minute of the day. She hurried down the stairs to help. Mama gave Lily potatoes to peel. Mama cut each peeled potato into chunks and covered them with cold water so they wouldn’t turn brown. The potatoes would have to wait to be cooked until after church.
Mama set the pies on the kitchen counter in a row: pumpkin, pecan, and cherry. Lily wasn’t sure which she wanted to eat but she thought she might try a small slice of each one. Mama checked the oven temperature and slid the roasting pan filled with the prepared turkey into it.
After breakfast, Papa drove Jim up to the door and they climbed into the buggy to go to church. It seemed funny to be going to church on a Thursday, but Lily always enjoyed Thanksgiving church. Everyone seemed extra happy, thinking of the meal that was waiting at home. Even the slow church songs sounded a little faster and happier.
Lily tried to listen to the ministers but her thoughts kept drifting off to the good food in Mama’s kitchen. Her stomach started to rumble and she tried to muffle it with her hands, but Effie and her mother heard. They sat right in front of Lily and Mama, and turned to frown at Lily at the exact same moment. It seemed as if they had rehearsed it.
The very second church was over, people bolted off of their benches and out the door. No one was interested in lingering to visit. Not today!
Lily and Joseph scrambled to the back of the buggy to peer out the little window. The buggies of Grandpa Miller and Uncle Jacob followed them home. The smell of turkey dressing filled the air as the buggies reached Lily’s driveway. Mama hurried inside to turn the stovetop on for the big pot of potatoes. Grandma and Aunt Lizzie helped Mama make the gravy and set the table. Lily was glad that Uncle Jacob didn’t have to do anything except sit in the living room and visit with Grandpa and Papa. That meant he could watch Noah and Papa could watch baby Paul and Dannie. Lily could go play dolls with Aunt Susie.
It wasn’t long before Mama called for Lily to come to the kitchen. Lily dropped the dolls on the floor and rushed downstairs. Thanksgiving dinner was ready! She looked at all the food on the table: mashed potatoes drizzled with melted browned butter, golden brown turkey gravy, sweet corn, seven-layer salad, freshly baked dinner rolls, and another bowl filled with Mama’s secret cheesy peas. In the center was a large platter with turkey dressing, steaming hot and piled high. Three little bowls, one with honey, one with butter, and one with a special spread of jam and marshmallow cream, were tucked near the bread rolls.
Behind the table on the counter were the pies, a big bowl of fruit, and a chocolate layer cake with fluffy chocolate frosting.
Mama was looking at her list, frowning. “Lily, where is the pudding?”
The pudding? Oh no! The pudding!
Lily dashed out to the porch to get it and stopped in dismay. Two big barn cats were sitting in the bowl, licking the last of the beautiful Thanksgiving pudding. Lily snapped her apron at them. “Shoo! Scat! Get away from here!”
The cats didn’t budge. They looked at her and started to clean their paws. Lily was so cross at them! She picked up the bowl and tipped it so they tumbled out. “Bad cats!” she said. They didn’t look even a tiny bit sorry for what they had done.
Lily took the empty bowl and handed it to Mama. “I couldn’t find a place for it in the refrigerator so I put it outside and covered it with a dishtowel.” Her eyes welled with tears. She was so disappointed. “The cats found it first.”
Mama’s mouth opened in a big O. She looked at the big empty bowl, then at Lily, then back at the bowl. “Well,” she finally said with a reassuring smile, “I think we have enough food even without the pudding.”
After dinner was over, Lily and Aunt Susie helped the women clean off the table and put the leftovers away. Then everyone sat in the living room to visit until it was chore time.
Lily waved and waved until Grandpa Miller and Uncle Jacob’s buggies turned the corner onto the road. Papa and Joseph and Dannie went to the barn to milk Pansy and the goats and to feed the rest of the stock. Mama asked Lily to stay inside and help her make their special Thanksgiving tea—the way they ended the day.
Mama spread all the bits and pieces of hickory nuts into the bottom of a saucepan and covered them with water. Lily watched as the water started to boil. As soon as the water turned a lovely shade of golden brown, Mama took the saucepan off the stove and added brown sugar and milk.
Papa and the boys came in from the barn just as Mama finished stirring the tea. She filled five little cups with it and everyone sat around the table to enjoy the last tradition of Thanksgiving. Lily loved the crunchy sugary nut bits that floated on top of the tea. She wondered why they called it tea when it really wasn’t a tea at all. It was more like hot chocolate, only better. She sipped it slowly to make it last as long as she could, unlike Joseph and Dannie, who gobbled it down. They only had this special tea on Thanksgiving. They would have to wait an entire year before they could have some more. Joseph and Dannie had no concept of time. None at all.
It was a perfect day. Except for the pudding.
As Mama tucked Lily into bed that night, she whispered, “Don’t feel too badly about the pudding, Lily. The cats work hard for us, keeping the mice away. They deserve a treat now and then.”
Lily thought those silly cats had their best Thanksgiving meal ever.
About Suzanne Woods Fisher: She is an author of bestselling fiction and
non-fiction books for Revell about the Old Order Amish. Learn more about Suzanne, her books, and her weekly radio show by stopping by www.suzannewoodsfisher.com. Download the free app, Amish Wisdom, to receive a daily Amish proverb. A moment of peace and calm in a busy day.
This excerpt is printed with permission by Revell Books.