Celebrating Thanksgiving

pumpkin in snow!It’s so accepted these days to have all your Christmas decorations up before Thanksgiving but it’s hard for me to join the holiday rush.

I want to savor Thanksgiving with all the orange pumpkins and colorful gourds and our family. Our Thanksgiving table centerpiece is built from shades of fall with some dried seed heads from the garden I gathered in warmer weather.

This year I’m sticking to the Thanksgiving theme indoors but the overripe pumpkins had to go. We have cold weather and snow and more of it as the days pass. It’s nonstop snow today. The landscape and roads are snow covered and it looks more like Christmas than Thanksgiving outdoors.

So I broke with tradition this year, pulled out my pumpkins, gourds, and fall decor that filled the urn at our entry and replaced all that with a small pine tree. I’ll notIMG_7782 add any holiday adornment to the tree until after Thanksgiving. The big metal turkey still stands guard out in the snow.

Today we have family arriving by cars and plane. Until we shuttle everyone to their destinations later today, the kitchen is being used to make pies and a number of other snacks, deserts, and sides that can be made early and refrigerated or frozen.

Cranberry sauce, chess pies, stuffing, salad dressing recipes all come from family sources… siblings, parents, grandparents… a few recipes that have been used for generations. Several years ago, with much help and input from six siblings, I collected our family favorites and printed them in a little book for any family member who wanted one. Of course they all did and so did a few neighbors and friends. Recipes have become much more healthy online today but somehow we love to go back and use the recipes from the old South with too much butter, bacon, mayonnaise, sugar, and salt. Memories…

OIMG_7788n the cover of the cookbook, I chose a photo of my parents as I remember them back when I was a youngster. Sorry that my dad was not living when I completed the project but my mother loved the book with lots of memories and photos of her, our dad, and their brood.

At the back, I added pages of childhood photos of all seven siblings growing up in a much simpler time. It’s my children and grandchildren who love the recipes and the snippets of fun and humorous memories from each each of their aunts and uncles that accompany every recipe they remembered best. It is fun how the youngest sister remembered chewing on the flavorful strings after our mother cut them from around the Sunday roast, or a brother remembered selling soft shelled crabs he caught at our summer cabin just off the Chesapeake Bay to the highest adult bidder… after letting our mother have first choice, of course.

I’d like to think those years were golden years when children were given much more freedom to venture forth and discover the world on foot, on bikes, or even in the rowboat at our summer cottage. As long as we were home when the dinner bell rang, it was all good.  If you watch the PBS Masterpiece program, The Durrells in Corfu, you’ll get a sense of our lives and the freedom we had growing up. Controlled chaos with lots of animals! It was a very good thing!

Going Home…

Richmond VA has always been dear to me. My mother grew up in Richmond so naturally we were there on a regular basis to visit our grandparents who lived in a suburb of the city developed in the early 1900’s.The neighborhood, now on the National Register of Historic Places, has 80-foot wide boulevards and tree-lined medians throughout. It was planned with a home setback of about 70 feet to be a garden environment with shade trees, hedges, good size lawns and the wonderful wide grassy medians. The area also had the first electric streetcar to operate successfully in an American city. Zipping into the city took minutes.

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My older bro, younger sisters, mother, and grandmother-1950’s

It was a glorious adventure when the seven siblings visited and it wasn’t hard to develop an emotional attachment to the home where we spent so much time. Both grandparents have been gone for well over 40 years but their lovely home still stands. Late in her life, I would drive my mother by the home when in Richmond. We’d stop and look and she was pleased it was kept up so nicely.

On one visit, we saw the blinds separate a little, followed by a man opening the front door. We watched as the young man walked down the long brick walkway to our car and asked if he could be of help. I can imagine how it might have been uncomfortable for him to see strangers parked and staring at his home. I explained that my mother grew up here and we just stop by occasionally to share memories and see how it’s being maintained.

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mother age 14

How excited he was to meet my 90-year-old mother and insisted that we come in and see all the upgrades and changes he was so proud of. My mother looked at her hands, thought for a minute, then respectfully declined with a gentle smile. She explained she wanted it to remain as it was in her memories.

I understood her reluctance but didn’t have the same hesitation  when my Richmond brother was brave enough to approach the newest owners for visitation on a recent Richmond sibling gathering. We all jumped at the chance! It was where we spent a large part of our childhood, the home filled with grandparental love and fabulous adventures. And how brave of this family to say, “Come on over…”

The first thing we saw upon entering was the youngest resident hiding behind a chair. This is her house now and a perfect place to develop her own memories!

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The basic architecture was the same… windows, doors, columns, chandeliers. The new kitchen was large and modern… thank goodness!  Some rooms were repurposed and I would do exactly the same thing if I lived there.

We all had different things we wanted to see. Here’s the one thing I longed to see… the secret stairway behind a mirror leading to the kitchen!

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They were nice enough to give us free rein to wander.

They asked questions. We told them stories. One thing that pleased the family was my offer to send old photos… especially the one below of my brother sampling a wedding cake in the dining room. It shows the original stained glass window, now missing. We remembered the colors and they hope to reproduce it.

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So….if you’ve been thinking of visiting a home from your past, my advice is to just do it!

PS: We also visited our family home where I spent my childhood. What an adventure that was! Perhaps someday I’ll share.