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Posts Tagged ‘An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving’

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What I Learned From My Mother

 

I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewings even if I didn’t know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another’s suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.
Julia Kasdorf

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. . .  An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving


 

When Ma and Pa Bassett are suddenly called to Grandmother’s house in the middle of Thanksgiving preparations, the six Bassett children left at home, lead by oldest sister Tilly, decide to make a turkey dinner anyways.

Set in 19th century New Hampshire, this is one of Louisa May Alcott’s short stories that found its way into book form. I discovered it when we visited the river town of Stillwater, MN, home to many used and antiquarian bookstores. This lovely edition  jumped into my hands and followed me home. I like to take it out and read it around Thanksgiving. The illustrations in this edition, by Holly Johnson, are evocative of the Garth Williams pictures in the Little House books and remind me of Tasha Tudor.

In between cleaning and baking a Jack-o-Lantern Tea Loaf, I pulled the book off of the shelf and browsed through it once again as the pictures took me away to an 1800’s farm in the east, and I scanned the recipes for Cranberry Sauce with Raisins, Johnny Cake, and Louisa May Alcott’s Apple Slump that follow the story in the back of the book.

After I set the table for tomorrow’s dinner, cover the pumpkin bread and pull out the big pans for the turkey and sweet potatoes, I think I’ll make a cup of tea, settle into a comfy chair, and read anew this little treasure, written in the 1870’s, not long after Abraham Lincoln declared a national day of Thanksgiving. It is a good time to sit and reflect on all the things I have to be thankful for, including you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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