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THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES: A Holiday Mosaic

5209107871_dcd07c7dbe_oImage by Satya Murthy via Flickr

Thanksgiving, that celebration of home and family, triggers memories that last through the decades. The scents, the songs, the family traditions, the quirky (but lovable) guests—these are life-enriching deposits in our memory banks. We asked Women’s Voices writers to look back over the years and share with us the reflections that make them smile.

 

THEME . . .

Thanksgiving in the Heartland

Back when I was young, in the 1950s, I knew Thanksgiving was a special day: In our small bungalow outside Minneapolis it was rare to have the aroma of roast turkey flowing out of the oven, much less white linen and Mom’s best silverware on our battered oak table. As soon as my mother appeared with the mashed potatoes and gravy, we scrambled to our places. My dad immediately claimed the turkey neck and giblets. Then passed the platter on. During dinner, my brother and I goofed around with our cousins, but the threat of “no dessert if you don’t clean your plate” sobered us up real fast. We kept a lid on the silliness until the last bite of sweet lemon meringue pie disappeared off our plates. After dinner, my mother and aunt cleaned up the kitchen while the men hung out in the living room. Us kids suited up in our snow gear and spent the rest of the afternoon frolicking in the November snow.

Diane Dettmann

 

. . . AND VARIATIONS

Chaos in Kentucky, Joy in Quebec, Serenity Now

Growing up, I had a complicated relationship with Thanksgiving. The food in our Southern tradition was always wonderful, and no one’s dressing can compare with my mother’s secret recipe. But the drama of the drive to my grandparents’ home in rural Kentucky—over the river and through the woods, literally—was often too much. There were too many children in that white Rambler station wagon; too many elbows and too much noise, ultimately, for my father’s short fuse.  And this was before we arrived at Grandmother’s house, where her 11 brothers and sisters and their children were almost always waiting.

My favorite Thanksgivings as an adult were in the house we owned for a decade in Quebec. We celebrated the Canadian Thanksgiving (they did it first—in 1578!) in October instead of the American one in November.  My mother and I prepared all our Southern foods and invited friends from that time and place to a Norman Rockwell­–like table filled with too much food, great wine, lots of stories, and laughter.  It was a wonderful way to go home again: celebrating another country’s Thanksgiving with all the same food, but with joy and no angst.

My son and daughter-in-law own Thanksgiving now. He has all the secret recipes and makes better gravy than I ever could.  She adds her family’s special dishes, and they make it seem so easy. My only job is to show up on time and to help with the cleanup. I am thankful for the formal transfer of Thanksgiving to my adult children!

I give thanks this year for my friends and partners on the board of Women’s Voices for Change, for all the writers and editors of www.womensvoicesforchange.org, and for all our readers who have helped us grow, since the launch of our site eight years ago.  I send you wishes for a safe and joyful day.

—Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D., Publisher, Women’s Voices for Change

 

The Fats Against The Thins on the Paddle-Tennis Court

I’m reliving it now through a golden haze. I was the non-jock in a family of athletes—father a three-letter man in college, mother a golf club champ, brother a formidable tennis player—but I had one shining sports moment every Thanksgiving, as predictable and dear as any other part of the ritual.

After dinner, always held at the home of our closest friends, we four would go back to our house and change into outdoor gear. Still savoring the tastes of my mother’s pies (oh, her whipped cream, barely sweetened, so billowy), we headed to a paddle tennis court near the parking lot behind an insurance company that was one of my father’s printing clients.

The lot was desolate; it seemed scary and special that ours was the only car there. Before Daddy turned off the car lights, he would open a wooden box attached to the frame of the court and turn on bright sodium lights. Then, jumping up and down to keep warm, we spun for first serve—my father and me, AKA The Fats, against my mother and brother, The Thins. Didn’t matter how blowy or snowy it was. (In those days, children, we had a thing called winter.) Or how much pecan pie and Jack Daniel’s we’d consumed and how cumbersome our pre-tech jackets were. We’d run, smash the ball, scoop shots off the wire, shout, laugh, and play to win.

Well, the others would play to win. I would mostly try not to get killed by the rubber ball. But every year, in spite of myself, I’d hit one remarkable forehand spinning off the baseline, a low-percentage shot that just happened to work, or I’d serve an ace, a stop-the-presses winner. Then back to being a klutz for the rest of the game, the rest of life, but never you mind: Thanksgiving comes again.

Nancy Weber

 

Parental Tribute Required

Thanksgiving at our house long ago featured delicious food—my favorite being the salted, roasted pecans in a silver dish. A big question was who had to sit next to Auntie Vi. I usually did, and lived in fear that her wig (big secret) would fall on me. Most memorable was the year Mother made us practice singing “Be Kind to Your Parents,” from her favorite musical, Fanny.  We performed for an audience of 15, many of whom were singing along. And today, all three of us “kids” are ready to reprise our performance on a moment’s notice.

—Toni Myers

 

At the Macy’s Lineup, a Curbside Family

I can’t help it. Nothing says “Thanksgiving” to me more than Macy’s famous parade. I know that doesn’t make me unique—last year’s telecast drew 25 million viewers. But for me, growing up on Manhattan’s Upper West Wide, the parade was practically in my own backyard.

Our parents took us faithfully every year, regardless of weather or feast preparations. One year we were late getting up to Central Park West. Oh no, we had missed it! My father grabbed our hands and pulled us into the nearest subway. We made it to Herald Square not only before the parade arrived, but in time for hot chocolate.

When I was about 16 I was in the parade. At the time, I was performing with a children’s theater company and we did one of the numbers, appropriately titled “Welcome to the Land of Incredible Feelings.” Incredible, indeed.

Over the years, I’ve seen the parade from an office high above Times Square and a reserved VIP area on Sixth Avenue. But I actually prefer rubbing shoulders with the masses. There can be a jerk or two in the crowd, but by and large there’s a sense of community. One of my favorite memories is from just a few years ago. When my daughter and I arrived, we were fairly far back in the crowd. A kind man in a New York Fire Department sweatshirt offered to let her sit on the curb with his children. (Generous of him: For prime real estate, they had probably driven into the city at dawn.) From where I stood, I couldn’t see the kids, but the man gave me updates throughout the parade. “She’s doing great,” he reassured me. “She’s loving it.” For two hours that Thanksgiving morning, we were family.

Alexandra MacAaron

 

BEST SONGS FOR THE DAY

Over the River and Through the Wood”

Kids and their parents have been singing Lydia Maria Child’s jaunty ode to the annual sleighride to Grandfather’s house ever since she wrote it in 1844 and someone put it to a traditional tune. These days it’s Grandmother’s house we’re all heading for, and most of us get there by motoring, not sleighing—but the singing still sure does bring the generations together. Our Poetry Sunday tribute to the wonder woman who wrote the ditty—abolitionist, women’s-rights advocate, novelist, historian—renders 7 of the 12 verses, including the happy windup: “Hurrah for the fun!/ Is the pudding done?/ Hurray for the pumpkin pie!”

 

“Thank You for the Days”

I love this song of gratitude, recorded by the Kinks in 1968. I heard Ray Davies, the band’s leader, sing it with a full orchestra and choir here in New York a few years ago. It’s an up-tempo ballad with poignant lyrics: “Thank you for the days/ Those endless days/ Those sacred days you gave me.” “Days” never made it onto the charts here, but was a #12 hit in the UK. (I’m particularly fond of this communal version, recorded at a rock concert in Glastonbury in 2010, with thousands of people singing along.)

—Susan Lapinski

 

Albuquerque Turkey”

Wish this breezy song had been around when we were kids.

 

“Now Thank We All Our God”

This resounding anthem is the hymn churchgoers long for the chance to sing at their Thanksgiving service. That stately, 500-year-old, Bachlike melody (attributed to Johann Crüger); those serious, dignified verses; that great four-part harmony (by Mendelssohn!); those dramatic bass runs—could there be a more stirring song of praise for a Thanksgiving day? (Avoid the bombastic, trumpet-fanfare versions you’ll find on YouTube: this modest organ version lets the beauty of the anthem grab your soul.)

—Deborah Harkins

 

 

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  • Toni Myers November 27, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    I am grateful for lots of things today, very grateful to Women’s Voices for Change for all the diversity and delight of the posts I read daily. I save those I must see again in a folder. Where on earth did you find Albuquerque Turkey?
    And I am grateful that my daughter is cooking the dinner, so we will go over the bridges (2 of them)and by lots of trees to grandchildren’s house today, where only 2 of us will watch the Seahawks play. I will be doing a Frozen puzzle with my grandbabies.

    Reply
  • Claudia Harkins November 27, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Deborah Harkins, your description of the hymn “Now Thank We All Our God” was exactly how I feel when listening to this beautiful hymnm It stirs in me an exhilaration of life and the hope, joy, and peace it can bring. The music and words remind me of my many blessings, and I should be giving thanks every day, especially on Thanksgiving.

    Reply
  • ddettmann@q.com November 27, 2014 at 10:16 am

    I enjoyed reading these wonderful Thanksgiving memories. I really connected with Patricia’s description of the car load of kids and her father’s short fuse! It reminded me of car trips with my family. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of Women’s Voices for Change. Wishing everyone a great Thanksgiving!

    Reply
  • Phyllis Dupret November 27, 2014 at 6:46 am

    Thank you for your wonderful celebration of Thanksgiving…Happy Thanksgiving to all at Women’s Voices for Change……………..

    Reply