Each Thanksgiving Eve, my mother and great-aunts would crowd into the kitchen and begin baking. They made cakes, pies and cornbread for dressing. My brothers and I would crowded at the counter with a spoon waiting to lick a mixing bowl. Thanksgiving was always a great meal prepared by great cooks.
Then there was the Thanksgiving that Cousin Alma came to visit. I don’t yet know the exact relationship of Alma Hathorn to my grandmother and her sisters. She was called “cousin” and she lived in Prentiss, MS. For some reason that I don’t remember, Cousin Alma came to our house in Jackson, MS for Thanksgiving.
In sharp contrast to my grandmother, she was a quiet woman who smiled without showing any teeth. My grandma had a loud rolling laugh! She was sharp-tongued and sharp-witted. I remember that my grandmother talked and Cousin Alma mostly nodded assent. If Cousin Alma disagreed, she would shake her head and say, “Now, Thelma”.
Also in sharp contrast to my grandmother, Cousin Alma could cook. She was famous at Mt. Carmel Church for her jelly cake. This was a sponge cake with a jelly filling. She rolled the cake into a log and spread homemade icing over it. It was the most delicious non-chocolate dessert I’ve ever had. She made this for our Thanksgiving. She also made an egg custard which has set the bar for all egg custards that my brother, Stacy, has ever eaten. That year, she taught my mother how to make red velvet cake and we were all in heaven.
My father can never remember her name, but routinely he mentions “that woman who made the cakes that year”. I will remember Cousin Alma always. The sweet quiet woman who was such a fabulous baker that she impressed a family for over 30 years.