A very Bartels Thanksgiving: Calories over credit cards on Black Friday

The Bartels family circa 1973.
The Bartels family circa 1973 at Grandma and Grandpa Bartels’ farm in Hubbard, Neb. Front row: Susan, Lynn, Mom holding Kitty and Brigid. Second row: Caroline, Jerry, Joe, Dad, Mary Kay and Jeanne.

In a previous life, I was a columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. Here’s what I wrote about Thanksgiving in a Nov. 29, 1991, column:

When I was growing up, Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t my favorite part of the holiday.

It was that night and the next day that I remember as being the best of times: eating and laughing, and eating and playing cards, and eating and arguing and eating.

When I grew older I found it hard to believe that people would go shopping for Christmas gifts on a day like today. We were never up for something that strenuous at the Bartels household because we didn’t go to bed before 3 a.m. Friday.

My siblings and I would play cards and wallow in the leftovers until we were in a food coma. We would get louder and louder and, finally, Mom or Dad would yell from their bedroom, “This is the last time! Now quiet down or go to bed!”

We’d look at each other and stifle a giggle and try to lower our voices.

“Your deal, Jerry.”

“I dealt last time.”

“No, you didn’t.”

“Yes, I did. Remember? I accidentally flipped a card so everyone knew Jeanne had the four of spades and Jeanne totally flipped out.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s right.”

As soon as it was time to deal, four or five chairs — depending on how many of my eight brothers and sisters had stayed up to play — would slide back from the table at the speed of light. We used that time to grab a drink or some turkey or to rush to the bathroom.

Pretty soon, the cards would be dealt and everyone would be in their place. But, invariably, a crisis would arise.

“I told you to get me some some turkey while I was dealing.”

The way to spend the Thanksgiving holiday.
Our way to spend the Thanksgiving holiday.

“I thought Caroline was getting it.”

“Caroline ran down to the basement to get the pop.”

“That’s not fair. I made you a ham sandwich when you were dealing.”

We’d have to calm down the dealer before the game could finally proceed, but the peace never lasted long.

“I’ve got more diamonds than Elizabeth Taylor.”

“No table talk, Sue.”

“How about last game? You kept saying, ‘I wish we were playing bridge. You can’t believe my count.’”

That kind of argument would go on and on, until we’d hear a mumble from my parents’ bedroom and then a light would flip on. Total fear would envelop us. We’d even stop chewing.

Eventually the light would go off and we would resume play.

“Hah! Hah! Hah!” a player would whisper, just before burning someone with the queen of spades during a rousing game of “Hearts.”

“Hah! Hah! Hah back! I just ate the last of the cranberry salad.”

There would be an instant hush. Cranberry salad is sacred to my family at holidays. The recipe includes two ingredients essential to Midwestern cooking: Cool Whip and marshmallows.

“Dad is going to kill you. He said to save him some cranberry salad.”

All of a sudden a voice would boom in the hallway. “Who am I going to kill? What happened?”

At that, one of my sisters would laugh so hard pop would come out her nose. Even Dad would snicker before ordering us to put the cards away, wipe off the counter, cover the pies and, “GO TO BED, NOW.”

So we’d go to bed. But as soon as we got up, it would start all over again.

I miss those days. It’s been years since I had pumpkin pie and stuffing first thing in the morning.