Friday, November 20, 2015

Memoirs of an Eclectic Shorebird:Thanksgiving Joy. Mid 1960s.

Thanksgiving. Mid 1960s. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and March of the Wooden Soldiers has been watched.The high school homecoming game has been played and lost. Dinner has been eaten, toddlers at the children's table, older children around the coffee table. It doesn't take much urging to convince a couple of the older cousins to take us youngsters down to the high school fields so we can examine the smoldering remnants of last night's homecoming bonfire.

Oh the glamour of older cousins with their peace signs and long hair, fringed jackets and flannel shirts, love beads and bell bottom blue jeans. We skip along behind our slim hipped and hip teen cousins like country mice following the Pied Piper.   Occasionally we  stop and collect acorns or a very fine pine cone, which our older cousins dutifully admire. Impossibly kind, these cousins are worthy of our devotion. We worship them just slightly less than Santa Claus and Superman.

 In our neighborhood gaudy mums and pumpkins brighten the porches.  Curbside, leaves are heaped in piles waiting to be burned. (When I think of Autumn and childhood I see old men in plaid wool coats and winter hats with ear flaps standing guard over a smoldering pile of leaves.) The leaf piles are huge to us children. We leap into the mounds of orange,red, and rust. We wade through knee deep streams of autumn color releasing the scent of leaf mold into the cold air.

 Back at the house we pour in, red cheeked and sweating in our heavy winter coats. We enter our little yellow cottage, the one my father built, on a wave of fresh air tinged with the scent of wood smoke, flooding the room with high pitched chatter, all talking at once.

While we are gone the dishes have been done, and four generations of relatives are crammed around the kitchen table. They squeeze in tight to make room for  neighbors and more relatives who arrive for dessert.
 There are pumpkin and mince pies. These are homemade pies. They are heavy homely pies, the edges pressed down with the tines of the fork the way they have always been made in our family.
  My little brothers are so proud to have helped they describe in excruciating detail  scraping the inside of the pumpkin, carrying of the 'pumpkin guts' out to the compost. They eat two pieces of pie apiece. I have been wishing for fancy bakery pies, ones with perfect crimped crusts that are carried home in  boxes tied with red and white string.
 I think back to the day the pies were baked. Sun streamed through yellow and white gingham kitchen curtains .  A Del Shannon song was playing on white Bakelite radio on the counter. My beautiful mother, in pin curls and penny loafers,  sang along as she dumped the pot of cooked pumpkin into her big yellow mixing bowl. My brothers climbed onto the counter. They were still for the moment and quiet, paying rapt attention to the pie making process.
I look at our homemade pies. In retrospect, the store bought version seem meager and anemic. My dad takes a bite of pumpkin pie and declares it the best ever made. I think so too.
The day is winding down. The little ones are growing cranky. Grand parents and great grandparents are ready to leave. My brothers and the other boys, who have been well behaved all day, are getting rambunctious.

  My mother settles us at the coffee table with red and green construction paper, white paste, Dennison's Christmas seals,and blunt tipped scissors. It is time to make our paper chains. One link for each day from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. Each evening before bed we will tear one link from the chain until there are none left. The chains grow longer and longer.
Soon we are not tall enough to hold them off the ground. And then our dad  holds them high over his head and still the last links brush the ground. Christmas is never going to come, we moan. It's so far away!

 And to us the space between Thanksgiving and Christmas is very big. So much will happen between now and then. The Advent wreath must come out at church, and week after week, another candle lit.

There are hundreds of math problems, vocabulary words, and geography lessons between us and Christmas.  There will be a school recital, and a Sunday school pageant. There will be songs to learn, and verses to memorize.  The first Christmas special airing in ten days is barely a flicker of light on the horizon. Christmas is out there, in the vast reaches of time and space but it is too far to comprehend.

 We drag our paper chains into our room . We say our prayers, climb into bed. It has been a wonderful day and we don't want it to end. "Wait," we cry. "I want to tell you something."

There is nothing to say, except goodnight but we hang on to them for as long as we can.  None of us  know how fast the decades will pass and that in fifty years we will still hang on to them as long as we can, "Wait," we will tell them at the door, and on the phone. "I want to tell you something."
"Tell me in the morning," is always the reply, their promise to be with us tomorrow.

Mom and Dad loop the paper chains over the ends of the curtain rods. We drifted toward sleep, hearing their voices, soft in the other room. We fall asleep watching the paper chains  in the moonlight. They hang there in the dim light, the promise of something good.

Wishing you all a blessed and healthy
God Bless those serving our country
God Bless America.


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