Thursday, November 17, 2016

Of memories and Thanksgiving...

by Helen DePrima


November suits me. The bustle of fall activity is done – garden put to bed, leaves raked, firewood stacked before the first snowfall. I can enjoy the subtler colors of the hills after the extravagance of autumn foliage almost too beautiful to tolerate. Small details stand out: ferns shielded from the frost, a single scarlet mushroom that’s spent the summer hiding under leafy neighbors, winterberries gathered at the marsh’s edge.



November in my Kentucky childhood had a softer edge than here in New Hampshire, often shirtsleeve weather clear up to Thanksgiving and beyond. Once the leaves were down, I was allowed to take my .410 shotgun into the woods to harvest mistletoe growing in the tops of tall oaks. I got to be a decent shot, able to bring down whole bunches intact to peddle before Christmas at the local market for fifty cents a handful.




With Thanksgiving just ahead launching holiday frenzy and the political madness behind us, I’ll be grateful and hold onto the November quiet while I can.

by Liz Flaherty

When I was little, our family spent the Thanksgiving holiday at my Great Aunt Nellie’s house on Douglas street in Goshen, Indiana. It was a nice white Cape Cod house with two bedrooms, a bathroom, a hallway where the phone was, and a nice big living room complete with a television and a secretary desk that I lust after to this day. There was also a nice kitchen with a chrome-and-Formica dinette set in red and gray and—here’s the best part—one of those stools with the steps that came out in the front. I’ll add a picture if you don’t know what I mean.

I loved Aunt Nellie’s house. She even had a cement driveway. But the very best part—
even better than the stepstool--was her basement, where there was yet another kitchen and living room. This was where the 20-some of us gathered to eat. Then the women talked, the men went up to watch the television and smoke and fall asleep on the overstuffed furniture, and us kids played 78 rpm records on the old Victrola in the corner. After a while, we ate again. Turkey and dressing, pumpkin pie, and cranberry stuff that slid neatly out of the can. (I wouldn’t eat it, but I did like to watch it come out of the can.) There was probably more, too, but I didn’t care. I thought dinner at Aunt Nellie’s was the nectar of the gods, and I’d never even heard the term!

Aunt Nellie died in the 70s—oh, a favorite story about her! She was getting ready for a trip to Grand Rapids with friends when she died. At the service, her pastor said with great confidence that Aunt Nellie had been just as prepared for the trip she took as she’d been to go to Michigan. My grandmother, her older sister, muttered to my sister-in-law that if Nellie’d had her druthers, she’d rather have gone to Grand Rapids.

A few years ago, my sister and I were in Goshen, which is about an hour away from where we live (although the journey seemed much longer when we were kids), and we found the house on Douglas Street. Wow, it was small. It was pretty enough, but nowhere as beautiful as I remembered. The street itself, which had seemed broad when I was a kid, was barely wide enough for two lanes of traffic. The lawns that had seemed luxurious were…sort of pokey.

We laughed as we drove around that day, visiting graves of people we’d loved and calling up memories that made it sound as if we’d grown up in two different houses. And there we have the important part, the greatest part of all about Thanksgiving—memories.

I hope yours are all wonderful.




33 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your Thanksgiving memories, ladies.

    Liz, Thanksgiving at your Aunt Nellie's house sounds wonderful. I had an "Aunt" Nellie, too. Nellie, in her case, was short for Cornelia. She was the wife of my grandfather's brother. She lived in California, as did her daughter, son in law and grandkids.

    Not having an actual aunt, I loved visiting her. Your post brought back a happy memory of the year I was there to celebrate US Thanksgiving with her and all my cousins. Thank you for that, too!

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    1. I keep having the sneaking suspicion I shared Aunt Nellie with everyone last year, too (although I haven't checked)--if I have, I'm glad you enjoyed her again. And that you have some Aunt Nellie memories, too.

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  2. Loved the photo of the red step stool. My best friend's mother had one in her kitchen. Mrs. Flack was like a mom to me since mine had died, and I spent many hours growing up perched on that stool pouring out my teenage woes to her. Sweet lady, sorely missed.

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    1. Nice memory. My mother-in-law had one, too, a yellow one, that my sister-in-law still has.

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  3. Beautiful pics, Helen. Good memories, Liz.

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  4. Ladies, love your posts about fall season and holiday memories. Liz, I had a friend who went to college in Goshen Indiana. A college for her church. She loved the town. It's so true our childhood memories sometimes exceed current reality. But isn't that wonderful? Those are the memories we build on.

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    1. Goshen College is still there and doing well; I think it's a Brethren college. And, yes, they're wonderful to have.

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    2. Hi Roz -- what I miss at Thanksgiving is extended family. For many years we had unattached friends as well as our children around the table. Now we're reduced to our daughter only and have taken to spending the holiday at a different vintage inn each year. I miss my cousins in Kentucky even through much of the time minor feuds break out.

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  5. Helen and Liz, I always, always love your posts, but you are so right, in the end, holidays are all about making memories.
    Hope everyone's this year are grand.

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    1. Hi Catherine -- This year we'll be at a rustic inn hoping the weather permits hiking. A couple years ago we go snowed in on a 5,000 foot mountain for three days -- always something different. Happy Thanksgiving to your family.

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  6. Thanks for sharing. Gets me in the mood for the holiday. Yay Have a wonderful thanksgiving yourself. smile

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    1. Hi Sandra -- Thanks for joining us and have a great holiday.

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  7. I love hearing about Thanksgiving memories. Thanksgiving is, by far, my favorite holiday. And isn't it funny how different things look once we've grown up. :(

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    1. It is amazing, isn't it? I love the whole holiday season, and must admit it all kind of runs together for me as a time of good will and joy. It's why I never mind the term, "happy holidays," but that's a whole nother can of worms, isn't it? :-)

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    2. Merry Christmas is fine and Happy Holidays for those who don't necessarily celebrate Christmas. Good will is the important part.

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  8. Thank you for the beautiful post. I defy the publishing world to find better writers than the two of you. My mind is now filled with 'winterberries gathered at the marsh's edge,' and Aunt Nellie's house. We had a stool just like that because my mother was 4'10". Maybe things look so big to our child's minds so that we dream big. Always lovely 'listening' to the two of you.

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    1. You are so sweet, Muriel. I loved that line of Helen's, too. I'm sure she wouldn't notice if I "borrowed" it. :-) Happy Thanksgiving!

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    2. Hi Muriel -- Glad you enjoyed my winterberries. The jar comes from a potter in North Carlina and always reminds me of some heavenly body. Liz, feel to use-- my line is your line.

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  9. I love hearing about your memories. Helen, I'm smiling as I picture you shooting mistletoe out of treetops. And Liz, I think I would have loved your grandmother, your whole family actually. Thank you both for starting my day with a smile.

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    1. Aunt Nellie was the fun one, but Grandma could come across with a few zingers, too. Have a great holiday, Beth.

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    2. Hi Beth -- I was so proud of that little shotgun I practically polished the blueing off the barrel. I feel so lucky to have grown up in my grandparents' home, a very different experience from my classmates in more conventional households. My aunt who also lived there treated us to her rapier-sharp witticisms still repeated twenty years after her death.

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  10. Shooting mistletoe out of trees--first time I ever shot a gun. lol And Aunt Nellie's house sounds wonderful. I've learned not to go back home, thinking it will be like it was when I was a kid.

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    1. I swear, I don't think I ever looked up! I still live in the community where I grew up, so some things HAVE stayed the same--but more of them have not. Happy Thanksgiving, Pat.

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    2. Oh, and that red chair with the step--when I was about 5 I sat on one and churned butter.

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    3. Hi Patrica -- wow, another mistletoe hunter! I envy you still living in your hometown. Every time I go home to Kentucky, I resolve to move back there. Even though I've lived in NH more than forty years, I slip back into childhood comfort as soon as I cross the Ohio.

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  11. I remember my grandmother's house being massive, but I wonder now how big it really was! You're right--everything is bigger through little eyes. What nice memories.

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  12. Such sweet memories. I love Thanksgiving and can't wait to hear what my children remember about it when they get older! I remember the homemade cinnamon rolls my grandma would make when we would go there for Thanksgiving or Christmas. They were the absolute best.

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    1. Our family has kind adopted Thanksgiving as "our" holiday, and the memories that have been made since then are incredible! Truly the best part.

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