Thursday, November 7, 2013

Write Your November Memories Now

I'm going to post a piece I wrote for my Family Memories Book about the month of November and especially Thanksgiving. I have some other Thanksgiving stories that I'll post later this month. This one is here today for two reasons. We are driving to Dallas today so my time is short this morning. Second reason is to trigger some of your own memories so you can write them for your Family Memories Book. Do it early in the month before the holiday craziness begins.

Thanksgiving Then and Now
By Nancy Julien Kopp

The crisp, sunny days of October somehow slid into damp, gray ones during November in the Chicago area where I grew up. The sun played hide-and-seek in the late autumn and winter months, mostly hiding. Wind swept across Lake Michigan, bringing a chill that seeped through warm, woolen jackets and into our bones. Un-raked leaves swirled around our feet with each new gust of wind, and naked tree branches dipped and swayed like ballerinas announcing that winter would soon begin. We walked faster on our way to and from school, and Mom often commented that we had roses in our cheeks when we came into the warm kitchen from outdoors.
We accepted the chill and gloom of November because it heralded Thanksgiving. At school, we spent that month learning about Pilgrims and Squanto, the Indian who helped the settlers through that first tortuous winter. Teachers planned bulletin board displays with a Thanksgiving theme. Everyone celebrated this non-religious holiday. Rather strange since the Pilgrims came to this country seeking religious freedom.

Mom and my aunts prepared the dinner—turkey roasted to a golden brown and stuffed with a moist dressing redolent with sage, that teased for hours with its pervading aroma. Aunt Adeline made a second stuffing adding sausage, a recipe from the French side of the family. We had creamy mashed potatoes and rich gravy made from the turkey drippings, sweet potato casserole with a marshmallow topping, seasoned green beans, homemade yeast rolls, cranberry sauce, and the family favorite, Seafoam Salad, a mixture of lime jello, cream cheese, mashed pears and whipped cream.  Spicy pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream and apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream finished off our feast.

Dad’s two older sisters lived in the Chicago area, so we usually celebrated
Thanksgiving with them, alternating homes from year to year. The eight cousins, despite the wide range of ages, had a wonderful time together. After dinner, we got shooed outside to play. I suspect the adults sat around and drank more coffee, nibbled on the leftovers and did all they could to put off the dishwashing time.

 No dishwashers in those days, so all the women pitched in and cleared the table, washed and dried the dishes, often with towels made from flour sacks. When my female cousins and I got older, we were drafted into the kitchen with chattering women and clattering dishes.  The men plunked themselves into chairs and listened to the radio, or watched the small screen  black and white TV when we finally had one.

After I married, I invited my parents and brothers to our home for Thanksgiving, even though I wondered if my mom would be hurt. She’d been the hostess ever since my aunts
passed away. I needn’t have worried, for her answer was “Finally! I’ve been waiting to be invited out for Thanksgiving for years.”

Now, my children’s families make the trip home for Thanksgiving every other year. We use a few shortcuts in cooking, and we load the dishwasher instead of drying dishes, but the grandchildren revel in being with cousins just as I did. The faces around the table change, but the same warmth of a family gathering to give thanks remains. May it ever be so.

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