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.

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Sunday Dinner

As far back as I can remember Sunday dinner was a really special meal.  It might be hash during the week, but on Sunday it was a big beef roast, with potatoes, and gravy and all the other food groups.  Or it could be a roast chicken, with mashed potatoes and gravy and all the other food groups.  And dessert.  Always dessert.  My mother made the best pie.

And before dinner was church.  Sometimes my mfamily dinnerother stayed home from church to finish up a really special meal. Whether or not, the dinner the rest of the family came home to was always wonderful.

As a kid I liked the whole experience implied by the name.  Sunday dinner. A weekly meal when we all sat down together and talked together, sharing our weekly activities, our experiences, our laughs, our unhappy moments and even a hint about our regrets.   As a teen I grumped about sharing except when the focus was on me.  Typical reaction.  As a college student I had plenty of attention when I came home, so it didn’t matter as much that the rest of the family was getting some too.  As an adult, I appreciated that the other, now scattered family members were sharing a glimpse into their lives.  Then, as a wife and mother I was pleased that my immediate family all received “airtime” at the table when we visited.  All so typical, I suppose, but we were a typical American family.  No major issues among us.

This is a tradition that, as a wife and mother, I carried on in my immediate family.  We always met for Sunday dinner, no matter how involved the children were in something else – sports, music, movies, friends and more.  Fortunately, they grew up before the advent of ipads and iphones.  My reaction would have been to put these devices down or they would be taken away.  I was tough.

I’m pleased that my oldest child (also female) is continuing the tradition.  My other two children are not on a regular basis.  As it is convenient, I suppose, or the urge to make the effort is greater than not.

During my childhood Sunday dinner was one of those traditions that was a mainstay.  There were a great many traditions as I was growing up.  Among them were courtesy to others, caring about the underdog, polite behavior when in public.  Oh, pockets of these traits may remain, but it would seem the “general public” has set these aside to embrace controversy and even hatred instead.  Maybe it’s that the media is focusing on the hateful actions of others more than ever – and maybe not.  Maybe it’s that more media exists today and 24-hour coverage must include something controversial – maybe not.

Still, what is happening today in our public life is not traditional.  How far have we (the universal we) come in moving away from our traditions?  Yes, even to whom we elect as our president. We are looking at choices now that are so non-traditional it is staggering.  Surely that crazy man named Trump is putting us on!  Surely no one can be that obnoxious in real life.  Now, electing a woman is fine with me.  It’s about time.  But why such a controversial woman?  Then there’s the Socialist who’s running as a Democrat.  Wow.  What a field of candidates to choose from.

Our president has said, “That’s now who we are,” but I’m thinking, “Maybe it didn’t used to be, but it seems like it is now.”

Just now everything is politics.  But like Sunday dinner, “politics” is no longer traditional.

Animals We Love

Pansy is being put to death tomorrow.  Pansy is our neighbor’s dog.  She is 13 and has been ill for months, maybe years.  She’s been having seizures since she was three.  But she is loved and her “mother” made a point of telling me that Pansy was being put down tomorrow  Pansy is the closest thing the couple next door have to a child.

Thinking about Pansy has made me reflect on all the animals that have been in my life. The first I recall is “Zero.”  He was a small bulldog with a white ring around one eye.  My dad, who was quite crafty, made a wooden dog that looks just like Zero, which now guards my front door. I was a young child during Zero’s years and don’t recall what happened to him.  I do remember that my cat (name not remembered) hung itself (can’t even recall the sex of this pet, but I frequently dressed it in doll clothes and took it for a walk in a doll buggy) on a neighbor’s broken window.  The neighbor was watching the cat for me while I was away. She buried the cat before I returned.

When I was a freshman in high school my mother was given a rat terrier we named “Mo” for the aircraft carrier Missouri.  I was in college when he died and knew only that my dad buried the dog in the back yard.  I don’t remember agonizing over his death.  He was mom’s dog, not mine.

Within months after we were married my husband Rock and I acquired two Siamese cats. They were the best.  Chased each other all night from one end of the apartment to the other.  It was a “shotgun” apartment, doors between rooms were all in line and the back end included our bed.  During most nights they started out under the covers, sparring then chasing, then up and over the bed to the front of the apartment then back again and up and over the bed, etc..  It was fun at first, but sleep was hard to come by once their game started.  Because we were moving they ended up on a farm, happily, we hoped, and still do.

Our next pet was a cat Rock found in an alley in Newark, New Jersey, where he was working.  He brought her home and gave her a bath and the cat, Susie, never forgave him. When at the end of her life her bladder control gave out she always seemed to seek out his foot before she let loose.

Our children were small but growing into preteens when we acquired a dog, “Miss Liberty” whom we called Libby and a cat, “Uncle Sam,” whom we called Sam or Sammie.  It was Bicentennial time and we were very patriotic  These two pets grew old with us, well past the age when most pets are gone. Eventually both were affected by the chemicals we spread on our lawn and it was up to me to put them down, as I had done with Susie.

Susie was easy.  The day I took her to the vet’s I arrived in the parking lot and cried for a moment, reached for a tissue and felt something wet.  She had let loose into my jacket pocket  Well, I hustled her into the place and never looked back.

Libby and Sammie were loved by all of us… husband, three children and me. The children grew up with them.  I was the only one home on the day the earlier decision had been made regarding each animal’s final day.   I had the duty.  Sad times, indeed.

There comes a a time when a life is finished.  With animals we love it is when we know that the quality of life is over and only pain remains.  A doctor somewhere in the west went to prison because he offered the same “put down” service to humans.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. Depends on the circumstances, I suspect.  For example, I know I don’t want to be kept alive in a vegetative state with tubes and such.  I would hope that someone would love me enough to  have me put down, if only by turning off the machines.

I will reflect on all this again tomorrow when my neighbors come back from the vet’s without their beloved Pansy.

Trying to Keep Up

I haven’t posted a blog lately because I have been terribly distracted with old and new computers.  My old one, “Fanny,” held not only all of my documents, emails, photos, websites set-ups, Facebook contacts, but all of these same things for the historical society where I volunteer, create exhibits, write news releases, etc.  So, when Fanny became terminally ill, not only did I move my things to a new computer, but I also separated and moved the historical society’s items to second new computer.  Oh, woel.  It was tedious, torturous and tough.

Also, my husband and I recently celebrated a milestone anniversary.  There has been quite a bit of celebrating over that event.  Looking back, it seems to me we have always been married.  I was a mere child when we promised ourselves to each other and he may have been just out of puberty.

While we agree on all the basic points of life, we still have discussions – sometimes animated – about the small things: who was it who played the protagonist’s role in “A Good Shepherd”; who said… etc.  These small disagreements are usually resolved with a hug or a smile.

Often a woman writing about her husband will give him a nickname.  “Fang” comes to mind.  I think of my very significant other as “Rock.”  It’s appropriate.  He’s a rock solid guy, my rock when needed, yet he can be stubborn and unmovable at times.

We have played a game for years, one that neither one acknowledges.  It has to do with being the last one to use something – toothpaste, bar soap, etc. To win one must be the last person to use the item  To lose one must be the first to open up a new tube or a bar of soap.We don’t really acknowledge winners or losers, except once Rock commented with a smile, “I see we’ve started some new soap in the shower.”  He had won that one.  I don’t like admitting it, but I cheated once.  The toothpaste tube was so empty it was flat, so I opened a trial size the dentist had given me and used it.  I felt bad afterward that I had not played fair in this silly game, and though I didn’t tell him, I never did it again.

Rock, as I said, is stubborn at times.  He likes to see the toilet paper fall down from the rear of the roll while I like to see it cascade over the top.  (Did you notice the verbs?  Isn’t mine so much more descriptive?  Is it any wonder that I prefer to see the roll that way?)  Whenever he puts on a new roll it’s always the way he likes it, even though he knows I will change it.  Once changed it remains that way.  I imagine he chuckles when he puts on a new roll then chuckles again when he sees what I have done.

We frequently have heated discussions on politics.  Our thoughts on this subject totally agree, although we are registered in different political parties. Still we cannot understand how “the other side” can be so blind, so stupid, so brain dead, so… well, you get the idea.

Here I could launch into a tirade about Indiana and its new law about serving same-sex couples in public places. Hasn’t the country gone beyond that?  And how about all those states making it harder for some people to vote? There’s no voter fraud in this country!  And why do some state governments feel that women should not have health care in certain kinds of clinics?  These clinics do more than perform abortions.  And what about…. Here is where I usually go into a tirade about what’s happening to my country and with my elected representatives.

So I’ll end with this.  Is this still America?  I find it hard to keep up and Rock agrees with me.  happy anniversary

When and where would I be if I could be in another time and place?

Boy, that’s hard.  That title.  I would, of course, want to go to all the truly great moments in history.  A time machine to take me somewhere else and live those fantastic moments as they occur.  Do you suppose people knew they were fantastic at the time?  Possibly not.  Recall, please, that those in the audience when President Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address did not applaud with any enthusiasm.  It took the publishing of the short address and the contemplating of it to know how great it was.

Oh, there are so many places and times I would travel to.  (Uh, oh… that ended with a preposition!  Tut!  Tut!)

Lately, and for about two weeks, I’ve been struggling with getting my new computer up and running.  It’s not been a happy time for me.  If I could wish myself away to a tropical island, with a mystery or spy book, hammock and cool, tall drink, I would do that just now.

Thankfully, my son (the boy grown to adulthood now who did not need “the talk” because he was white), is deep into computers.  So he has captured and redesigned my old website.  He did a fine job.  Check it out:  hiflightpress.com.

So, while he’s busy doing that, where else would I be?  I’d be back in time for sure, only because I’m getting up there in age and going back would allow me to be younger for a bit.  The movies have influenced me terribly and one of the places I would like to be is Oahu, on December 6, 1941.  It was a Saturday evening, the breezes were sweet and cool, the music was soft and swaying, the moon – well, I haven’t checked on the moon – but it was a paradise kind of night.   The next day was tragic and the start of a war that drew this nation together as nothing else ever had.  Everybody knew someone in the service back then.  Lots of folks had world maps on their walls (their walls!) to check on the action, as reported on the local radio stations.  It was four long years of sacrifice and loss and victories as well.

But for that one evening, wouldn’t it be fine to think the world was quiet, at peace, and all was well?

Obituaries Are Life Stories

One of the important features of a newspaper, for older folks anyway, is the obituary section. The joke is to check and see if “your” name is listed there. Ha, ha. But in truth, the purpose is to see if a former neighbor, or someone who’s lost touch, or a local person – known but not an intimate – is deceased and what is said about them.

What goes into an obituary is interesting.  When the subject had a hand in it the detail is better.  If the survivors wrote it then they will include some of what the person had talked about most… “Did I ever tell you about the time I…?”

Years ago I read a long obituary about a WWII veteran who had come home to the family farm near a small town, been called back to serve in Korea as so many were, then returned home again.  This time his service was to his family and his community. He married, had children, prospered, served on boards and commissions in his hometown, and saw his children grow up to be successful, happy adults, also serving their communities.  Yes, all this was in the man’s obituary.  He probably helped to write it and it stands out in my memory as someone who lived a really good, fulfilling life.  We all wish for that.

The reader’s eye is drawn to something else in the obituary section: symbols that recognize the person’s membership in various organizations, or the American flag.  The flag identifies veterans who served during our various wars, conflicts and actions. Nowadays more and more of these flag-marked obituaries are for men and women who served in the Korean Conflict.  In a few years the Vietnam veterans will fill the pages.

As for those WWII veterans who are passing away by huge numbers now, there was something else to mark their service.  In some cases it was stored away, lost or even purposely destroyed. It was the Honor Roll erected in small and large communities listing the men and women who were serving from that area.  My own home town placed a large board with names (the Honor Roll) in front of the post office and left it up until long after the truce was signed to end the Korean Conflict.  No one seems toHonor Roll faceknow where it is anymore.  In my adopted small town the glass-covered list of names was placed in front of the fire hall.  Some say it is now somewhere in the American Legion building, but no one can find it.

Some larger towns and cities erected more permanent tributes, some were etched into concrete and will always be there to prove the pride of the community.

Other even larger permanent tributes can be found near the battlegrounds of Europe and the Pacific.  Another is on the Mall in Washington, D.C,. where a sprawling memorial was erected, a bit late, perhaps, but it’s there now.

However, individual tributes/memorials – whether for veterans or not – are the brief biographies in the daily newspapers.  They can capture a glimpse of the whole person. Called “obituaries,” they make good starting points for genealogists and biographers. But since few people have books written about them, these obituaries must suffice as the story of a life.

In a Fog with Busy Fingers

I have been in a fog for nearly three weeks.  My close co-worker is in a downward spiral, sinking, sinking to death.  Every day Fanny is able to do a little less.  Fanny is my old computer, of course.  And this has left me in a fog.  Louise, my new computer, is trying to fill in and finally take over, but it’s been slow going. My fingers have been flying over both sets of keys, trying to save what I can and transfer it.  (Many of you may recognize that “fog” and “fingers” are suggested prompt words for blogs.)

One of my last projects on Fanny was to go through all the email on my primary account.  It was established in 2007 when I installed a new internet server.  I went wireless and thus began an eight-year collection of emails, stored in Fanny’s deep recesses.  Well, I didn’t want to lose all those addresses, so how much trouble would it be to go through them, check each one, copy down addresses, forward some to one of my own other email addresses (more recently established), and even delete some that were so old they would no longer open. Videos, for example, just don’t last.  As I checked the numbers, it looked like I only had 294 emails. How long could that take to check out, after all?

For four days… FOUR DAYS… I went down the list, or up the list, or by name or by date, or by subject matter, or whatever, trying to move out those 294 emails.  By the fourth day, when the number became seven, I finally realized it was not seven emails, but seven pages of emails. How many were on a page?  I had no idea.

So, you’re asking, why did you save so many?  Haven’t you heard of the “handle it once” theory?  When a piece of mail comes in read it and dispense with it to its final location, whether that be in a folder or in the waste basket.  Shouldn’t the same apply to email messages?

Yes, I say, but think about this.  From now and into the future, biographers will not have the personal correspondence (actual letters) of their subjects to pour over.  How will their stories be told without this vital primary source?  I had saved these pieces of correspondence in defiance. I was doing my part to save history.  And now I had become the biographer pouring over the remains.

Hmm.

However, by doing so several facts came to light. l For one, l came to realize that the child who had moved several time zones away kept in frequent touch.  I have had the feeling that she rarely gets in touch, hardly ever calls, never writes, and probably doesn’t even remember who her mother is.  Not so!  There were hundreds of emails from her, some quite long, and all imparting information about what she’s doing and expressing interest in what I’m doing.

I also learned that an elusive first cousin may move from place to place and not give me her mailing address, but she emails.  She also comments on my activities on my Facebook page. Yes, I do hear from her.  And from my sister-in-law as well, who is a busy, busy lady.  How could l not realize this?

I’m a paper person, I guess.  And the fog I’ve been in is a lot older than two or three weeks. Pardon me, ladies, for not recognizing that you are truly keeping in touch, except that you are doing it in a present-day way.  But I still like the old way – going to the mail box, having the thrill of receiving a hand-addressed envelope, opening it and holding several handwritten pages of news.  In this instance, I am not keeping up.