Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving Memories

It's hard for me to write this kind of post, and I'm not sure how many people will want to read it, since this is my first real attempt to capture some of my own memories.  Still, it's part of the family history and some of the "young 'uns" reading this might enjoy hearing about the "good old days."

The "good old days" is a phrase I actually used when my grand aunt, Elizabeth Stannard, spent a Thanksgiving with our family in Othello, Washington in 1958 (possibly 1957; I was pretty young at the time).  If it was 1958, this would have been her last Thanksgiving.  Normally she was not part of our family celebration because she spent it with the nephews she had helped raise, but this year she consented to come.  I remember my mother telling us how we needed to be on our best behavior and not interrupt.  Aunt Elizabeth was a retired Latin teacher and she had strict expectations about how we should behave.  The day came, our guests came (including my grandmother, probably my uncle, and my aunt and uncle with their three children) from Spokane, Washington, and I could hardly stand it.  I think I behaved all through dinner, but afterwards, when we got this special lady made comfortable, I remember the cousins all sitting in a circle around her chair and being allowed to ask questions of our remarkable relative.  I don't remember what anyone else asked, but my brilliant contribution was "Tell us about the good old days."  I vaguely remember that she told us some stories, but I don't remember them at all.  She could have told us many things, as I've since learned that she was raised in Kansas, came to Washington state soon after she graduated from college, was a school teacher and a superintendent of education in a sparsely settled part of the state, and then taught Latin in Spokane for many years.  She was also a world traveler, having gone to Europe, the Middle East, and India at various times.  So, which stories did she tell us, I wonder?

Other Thanksgiving memories involve a cornucopia.  On one of Aunt Elizabeth's trips, she had purchased wax fruit as a gift for my mother, and for at least a few years Mom didn't know what to do with it.  One year, she found a rattan or wicker cornucopia and said "That's it!"  For several years, our Thanksgiving centerpiece was the cornucopia with the fruit, lovingly arranged by my mother in memory of her aunt. 

We also had little Pilgrim candles, and possibly a turkey, although I'm not sure of that.  These are the kind that were probably 10 cents apiece but now sell for many times that on eBay.  They were a part of our Thanksgiving for many years, too. 

Dad usually mentioned how one of our ancestors was William Brewster, elder of the Mayflower Pilgrims.  I sure wish Mom had known that she descended from Myles Standish and Edward Doty, two of the "strangers" on the Mayflower, as there would have been some interesting conversations, I'm sure. 

We spent every Thanksgiving with our cousins, their parents, and our grandmother, sometimes at our grandmother's house, sometimes at our cousins' home, and sometimes at our home, wherever that was.  The men watched football and the children played board games after the wonderful meal, and the day always ended much too soon.  By the end of the day, Aunt Lois usually asked us what we wanted Santa to bring us for Christmas, and often that item ended up under her tree for us the next month. 

The people mentioned in this post have been long gone now, except for two cousins and my sister.  Their descendants all have their own holiday traditions, but I hope if any of them read this, they will know that they come from a long line of Thanksgiving dinners!  I only wish I'd asked my parents how they celebrated Thanksgiving as a family, when they still lived at home.