There were always pies. Pumpkin custard, of course, but also double-crusted apple. Lemon custard with a golden-tipped meringue (my mother’s favorite) might be added, though there were only six of us. If our Thanksgiving feast was going to be shared with relatives, there might also be cherry pie with a lattice top. Occasionally, it would be blueberry instead of cherry or the addition of coconut custard where the sugar would caramelize into a brown accent over the custard.

My mother made every one of these pies, rolling out circles of dough, carefully mixed so that flour, shortening, salt, and ice water yielded just the right consistency: pliable but not sticky, not too dry for handling. Mom’s pies were beautiful.

My parents loved Thanksgiving. There were no presents to exchange, only life’s gifts that we too often take for granted in the rush of everyday living. We celebrated our good fortune in humble ways: roasting a large turkey with herb-seasoned bread stuffing, sliding a cylinder of Ocean Spray cranberry jelly onto a plate where it would be sliced in discs, and shredding cabbage for coleslaw. More often than not, there were small baked yams we could open and dot with butter (no marshmallows; not boiled and mashed; not pureed for a casserole).

Our extended family was of the shared opinion that, after our late-afternoon feast and massive cleanup, we could relax together until we were ready for turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches and another piece (or two) of pie. While we might enjoy our main meal with only our parents, relatives would join us for this evening repast, perhaps bringing a few leftovers from their earlier celebration.

It was my father’s responsibility to carve the turkey (a job he did expertly), sit at the head of our dining room table, and remind us of how fortunate we were. We did not dwell on apocryphal tales of the “first Thanksgiving.” That was not part of our family tradition. Instead, we focused on what is most important in life: good health, nourishment, a place to call home, and the love we give and receive.