But there can be a downside, from failed recipes to nightmarish travel ordeals to illness.
Most who shared some of their past Thanksgiving horror stories say they can laugh about them — now.
Donna Succi Johnson of Saybrook Township still manages to laugh about the Thanksgiving the family traveled to see her brother Joe Succi, who lives in North Carolina.
“He was complaining that he always had to come to us for the holidays,” she said. “So we decided that we would go visit him that year.”
The families arrived safely in North Carolina by mid-Wednesday afternoon.
“The kids were kind of loud and full of energy after the long ride, but they were just being kids,” she said. “We were all happy to see each other.”
That evening, the whole family went to one of Joe’s favorite pizza parlors for dinner.
“Then it started — my sister’s youngest son started vomiting all over,” she said. “We got back to the house and there was more vomiting on the the kitchen floor. Our sister-in-law developed a migraine and had to lay down. About 15 minutes later, Mary’s oldest son plugged up the toilet. We searched the house for a plunger and found a mini plunger. My comic brother-in-law said this must be the one for half bath. It was time to go to bed.”
The second floor of the house had two bedrooms, though her brother had converted one into a closet for all her sister-in-law’s clothes. The other larger room was for her collection of teddy bears.
“This room was huge and I have never seen so many bears in all my life,” Johnson said. “The boys got into their sleeping bags and tried to go to sleep, but they couldn’t with all those bear eyes staring at them.”
On Thanksgiving morning they did like any good Italian family — they took over the kitchen and started preparing dinner.
“We had a wonderful dinner and like all our family get-togethers, we cleared the table and brought out the board games and cards,” she said. “Then it happened – someone else was sick.”
Come Friday, Donna’s sister-in-law wanted to go Black Friday shopping. Their mother volunteered to stay home with the kids.
“Our trip was cut short because somebody wasn’t feeling well,” she said. “We got back to the house and more family members were sick.”
By Saturday morning, Donna’s family was sick, but she remained healthy. She packed the car up and set off for the 10-hour drive home.
“We made it to the highway and I could hear my husband’s stomach gurgling,” she said. “He asked me to get off the next exit. He had it bad.”
For the remainder of the trip, she had to stop at every other exit because someone was sick.
By Sunday morning, Donna’s family was doing better, but her sister Mary and her family were all sick.
“(Her sister) Diana’s son got sick going home on the plane; out of 15 ... only three of us stayed healthy,” she said. “My brother did invite us back, but only one family at a time.”
It wasn’t illness that put a damper on Jefferson resident Iva Herman’s Thanksgiving in 1956. It was freezing rain, which quickly turned to snow. They had to spend two days and nights stranded in the snow in Ashtabula.
“The snow was so deep it covered our 1953 Plymouth,” she said.
Lenox Township resident Deanna Blough also shared memories of Thanksgiving 1956.
“We had 19 people at our house who were stranded by the snow on Jefferson Road,” she said. “My brother and I walked in thigh-deep snow to Bunker Hill to get milk because one of our guests was a baby.”
During that same snow storm, Susan Elin Zacharias and her sister were snowed-in their Jefferson Road house with all four grandparents and parents.
“Too many days and too much discipline,” she said.
The following year, her father treated everyone to a Thanksgiving dinner at an upscale restaurant in Ashtabula, after which all four of them suffered severe food poisoning.
“And, we had a one-bathroom house,” she said.
In the late 1970s, Jefferson native Lorna (McBride) Fleming and her husband, Mike Fleming, went to her parents’ house for Thanksgiving. When they arrived, Lorna’s mother was crabby, she said.
“She said, ‘We are having ribs,’” Lorna said.
Turned out she cooked a turkey and put it on the stoop in their garage to cool. Somehow, the garage door opened enough to let a neighbor’s dog in and it ate all the turkey.
Ashtabula County native Alicemae Kirkland Marunowski, who now makes her home in Cleveland, Tenn., remembers a Thanksgiving in the 1960s when all the family was coming over for dinner.
“We woke up to the sewer backed up all over our basement,” she said.
Jefferson resident Edward Pickard recalled the Thanksgiving when the oven heated up to over 500 degrees.
“You could push any button you wanted and it wouldn’t work,” he said. “I had to go to the basement and flip the breaker to turn the stove off.”
A broken oven didn’t stop the Pickards from having a happy holiday. They packed up the partially cooked bird and went to their daughter’s house. When the turkey was cooked, they packed it up again and took it back to their house. And the story has a happy ending.
“That’s the best turkey we ever had,” he said.
©2015 the Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Ohio)
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