It’s More than a Big Meal

Thanksgiving was a very special time this year.  In recent years Rock and I had been entertained at our oldest child’s home, bufamily dinnert this year I wanted to do the entertaining again, and so, the ritual of preparing for Thanksgiving dinner all came back to me.  It’s more than just a Big Meal, it’s all the memories that go with it… all pleasurable.

For starters, on Monday of that week I finished the grocery shopping and mixed up the yeast rolls.  It’s a refrigerated dough that will be baked on the Big Morning.  The moment I measured the salt I smiled.  Salt is measured in a cupped hand at my house.  Decades ago, as a girl I had seen my grandmother do that when measuring salt for a pie dough.  “You didn’t measure it,” I complained to this lovely, endearing grandmotherly type.  “I don’t have to.  I just know by looking.”  She was a sweetie, with rosy cheeks, white, white hair, full matronly figure and never wore a pair of slacks in her life!  Always had on a housedress.  Boy, could she cook!

Tuesday I prepared the mashed potato casserole that also would be refrigerated until the Big Morning.  Several mashed potato moments came back to me, but mostly I remembered the first time I tasted this recipe.  It came from a good friend who was in a women’s study group with me.  The group was having a  Christmas gathering at a new member’s house.  We all took dishes to share and most of us arrived in two cars at about the same time.  My friend was driving one and she pulled into a driveway, climbed out of the car with her casserole and approached the front door.  We all followed.  The woman who opened the door was certainly surprised to see eight of us standing there with dishes of food.  It turns out our hostess lived on the next street. We spent that evening laughing at the look on her neighbor’s face as she looked out at two carloads of strangers bringing food!

Wednesday I made a cranberry Jell-O and two pie crusts   All went into the refrigerator, the later were unbaked.  Again, they would be filled and baked on the Big Morning.  The turkey was moved from the freezer to the refrigerator. I grimaced at that overloaded appliance and wondered what in the world I would serve Rock for dinner that evening.  Something quick!

On Thursday morning the day began early.  I filled the pie crusts and while they were baking I kneaded, rolled out and shaped the dinner rolls.  My thoughts drifted back to many earlier Thanksgiving mornings.  When I was growing up our tradition was to have the big meal at noon then head off to the football game against our school’s long-time rival.  My brother was six years older and finally, by the time he was a senior, was big enough to play football.  But, he had been exposed to tuberculosis and though he didn’t have it, he was not eligible for the team.  Nevermind, he had played in the marching band for years and now, as a senior, he could sit in the back of the bus (going to the away games) with the older boys and the cute girls.  But that year the band was very small and some junior high kids plus two sixth graders who were taking music lessons were enlisted to swell the lines, even though their music abilities were not yet up to par.  I was one of those sixth graders.  I’m sure my brother thought I would tell mom if I saw any hanky-panky going on in the back of the bus.  l would have, too.  Poor brother!  Still, the memory brought some chuckles.

As the yeast rolls came out of the oven that morning I brushed them with melted butter.  I had rolled the dough into two circles and cut twelve wedges in one and 13 in the other.  The 13th wedge was for our youngest.  Oh, how she loved sopping up the last of the butter on that hot roll.  I ate it for her, since she was on the other side of the country.  Another smile, another happy memory.

I had been missing revisiting those and other happy memories that come with preparing the Big Meal.  I think Rock and I will host Thanksgiving dinner again next year.

Fanny, Fanny Goodbye; I Made Do; Death Comes to an Old Co-worker; On Knowing When to Change; (Reprise) Fanny, Fanny, Goodbye

It’s hard to put a title to this piece, but let me start at the beginning.  Last week was just awful for me, well, for my co-worker too.  This co-worker and I had been together for years.  Years!  She was very reliable early on, but as she aged she became a bit erratic.  Still, she always delivered. Together we had created some great work. (Strictly my opinion, of course.)

Friends and family kept telling me I needed a new co-worker.  I told them I was committed to Fanny.  (That’s her name.  There’s a song and movie by that name and the haunting melody stayed with me all week, though the lyrics did not.)  People said she was old and tired and slow.  I said she was steady.  They repeated that I should get a new co-worker. I said my parents were from the “Make Do” generation and it had rubbed off on me.  Even after the dining room chandelier fell on her, gouging her exterior and blowing off the lids of three keys, she had continued to work. How could l just throw her aside?

This is about my computer, of course.  I must admit that Fanny would probably fall in the range of ancestor in people time.  She’s ‘way beyond grandparenthood.  Frequently someone would call her “obsolete,” but no!  She was still viable.

Back to last week.  Fanny began to falter.  I had assigned a task to her and she could not comply. It meant a download of a new program, she flashed “virtual memory,” then wouldn’t you know?  All sorts of AdWare came with it. So, I began to uninstall some of those nasty things.  Well, that was just too much for Fanny.  She closed down and when she opened up again no icons were to be seen.  No Start button.  Nothing but the screensaver picture – a nice, calm view of the ocean with a small island inhabited by three palm trees.  I was not calmed.

Fanny agreed to open in Safe Mode where those icons appeared at triple size. But she would not restore to an earlier time.  I asked twice.  By Friday afternoon I was desperate.  Fanny was dying before my very eyes.  What to do?

That’s when Louise came into my.  (I tend to name inanimate objects and Louise is slim, sleek and shiny.  She looks haughty like a Louise should look.)  Still, she is a new computer that needs everything downloaded into her just the way Fanny had been.  And that has created a new problem.  Some of the programs Fanny sheltered (even though I have the CDs) are too old. Unreadable. Nothing will ever be the same.

Perhaps I should have listened to friends and family and known when to put the “old girl” away. No, this is not an endorsement for buying a new computer every two years, but it’s certainly something to think about.

Oh, Fanny, Fanny – Goodbye.

P.S.  Seeing that I now have a new, ‘way overdo computer, I would say that I’m sort of keeping up.

The Harmonica Is Good Enough for Me

I like music and once thought it would be fun to be really good at the harmonica.  It’s small, it travels well, I could play along with everyone, even to the car radio when we travel.  So I joined a group of wannabees.  The leader was excellent, and maybe one other member was a fair harmonica player, but the rest of us were just making noise.  Nevertheless, we made several appearances at senior citizen locations. Those folks were easy to please!

harm2We all played the basic instrument, key of C, ten holes.  Our leader owned half a dozen harmonicas, and when he played them for us, he was pretty good.  We all aspired to something more, so most of us bought a second one, bigger, more expensive.

Harmonica playing takes time.  Practice.  Keep  at it.  My best performance was “Oh! Susannah.”  Non players may not know it, but that’s the basic song.  Everybody can play it.  I didn’t realize that at the time, so when I attended a concert given by an extraordinary harmonica player (harmonicanator?) I bought his CD and as he signed the cover I mentioned my own accomplishment.

“Hmmpf,” was his replay. What a put down!

Eventually I dropped out of the group, but found a once-or-twice-a-year outlet for my talent.  My older daughter plays piano very well and at holidays she gets together with a neighbor who plays the ukulele. They play carols and other sing-along tunes for the party goers.  Recently I joined them with my harmonica.

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I’ve got rhythm.  When I play I’m all over the place with my body movements.  So, the applause and laughter (even the uke player broke up) proves that I’m doing pretty well.  My music is great!  It can be heard and I can be seen.  My daughter and her neighbors look forward to our concerts.

There’s one other thing I would like to say about harmonicas.  (And here is a history lesson…)  Back in 1858 when Stephen Douglas was the Democratic candidate for the Senate seat from Illinois and Abraham Lincoln was the candidate for the Republican Party, they met in a series of debates.  Douglas would show up at the event in a grand carriage, dressed in his finest, complete with a brass band and a cannon salute.  Lincoln came by train, walking from the depot to the site of the debate.  His apparel was not as fancy, and now dusty from walking the dirt street.  Often his coat was ill-fitting.  There was no brass band for him.

Once, when asked what he thought about all the pomp that Douglas brought with him he responded, “The harmonic is good enough for me!”  (Thus today’s title.)

I had occasion to use this quote when I spoke at an educational event on the debates between Lincoln and Douglas.  After quoting the former I whipped out my harmonica and played the first few recognizable notes of “Oh! Susannah!”  I can’t say that I received a standing ovation for my tune, but lots of surprised looks, then smiles and finally a clap or two!

So, what’s the point of this?  Well, maybe that simple things are still good, but that everything takes work, takes effort. Yes, I must get back to practicing the harmonica.

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It’s a simple instrument, but can play wonderful music in the right hands.  Is there a lesson in there somewhere?

Maybe.  I am always trying, and sometimes I’m even keeping up.