The Ghost of Thanksgivings Past
Many of the guests were my great aunts and uncles. Sadly, most of them are gone now. This year, I'll celebrate with my parents and my husband, in the same dining room as those childhood feasts. But we'll fit around the small dining room table, with no need for extra chairs or handmade place cards. It's still a lovely holiday, but sometimes I miss the way it used to be.
Here's a tiny tribute to those relatives, and all their wonderfully eccentric ways...
Aunt Martha sometimes brought presents for us kids. She meant well, but didn't seem to have a clue about what kids liked. The one that stands out the most was the coloring book -- of botanical drawings. I can't remember what Aunt Martha used to wear, but I always think of her when I see gingham or green and white checked cloth.
Aunt Martha was married to Uncle Walt, who had one wooden leg, a crew cut, and glasses a bit like Drew Carey's. He didn't say much, and I can't remember ever having a conversation with him. He seemed so shy, which may be why he married Martha, who was anything but shy.
By the time I was in fifth grade, I was taller than my Aunt Mid. She reminded me of a sweet, plump country mouse. One year at Thanksgiving she didn't bring her signature apple cake and there was a big outcry. She said that no one ever seemed to eat much of it, so she thought we didn't like it. We explained that we all eat it the day after Thanksgiving, which was completely true. We all expected to have it with our leftovers. Her cake showed up every year after that.
Uncle Harry, brother to Walt and husband to Mid, was another quiet one. He always seemed like he was in on some sort of joke, making him quietly jolly. In his later years, he had a condition that made his head shake, like Parkinson's disease.
Grandpap looked a lot like his brother Walt, but definitely wasn't quiet like him. If he had an opinion on something, or just thought he might have an opinion on it, he'd let you know. At the Thanksgiving table, long after everyone else was winding down, Grandpap could be seen spooning a dab of this and a dollop more of that onto his plate. And then he'd say, "I don't know what's wrong with me. I just can't eat like I used to."
Uncle Ken, who married into the family, taught me that getting old didn't mean you had to be out of touch with modern society. He was a smart guy and something of a tinkerer, always making clocks or painting birdhouses or asking us kids something about computers. He also taught me #8 on this list.
Uncle Ken’s wife, Aunt Ann, is the only one of the bunch who is still living. She's always been a fashionable lady, with her hair done up just so and her clothes carefully chosen. She is soft and kind, and as bright as her husband was. Even into her 80s (90s?), she has a better social calendar than I do. I haven’t seen her in awhile. I think it’s time I gave her a call.