Wednesday, November 24, 2010


It took me a while to find the letter from my mother, typed by her shortly before Thanksgiving in 1984.  I knew it would, which is why I am writing this post well ahead of THE DAY.    The primary reason however, is that I still try to cook a turkey ever year. 

 I have probably mentioned in the past, my mother was not a cook, chose not to be.  She had way too many other things she was interested in, and one only had to consume enough calories to keep the machine going.  Her theory on the whole thing was,  it took more energy to cook all those fancy-schmanchy numbers that would qualify as gastronomical delights, than it did to eat them.  That would put one way behind in the energy intake column.  That would also mean fading fast on the BLACK DIAMOND run later in the day, or dragging the sled up the hill for a few more runs after dinner had been consumed.  Hence my sister and I had always attempted to cook more interesting meals, with not a lot of success I may add. 

Age has not improved my understanding of the chemical reactions of butter at certain temperatures,  though to my credit,  I can get out my little box of science equipment and tell you the specific gravity of any stone you may chance to find.   I know, sounds a bit strange but my kids and I always wanted to know exactly what that rock was we were bringing home just 'cause it was pretty.' 

We love to eat, though always in a hurry, on the way to something far more exciting,

which doesn't explain why I am descended from an extremely long line of chubby children.....

My Grandmother

My Mother

My Sister

My Sister Holding Me
(She would later say it had taken far too long for my mother to take the picture and as a result, due to my enormous weight on her thighs, her legs had gone numb and it took her ten minutes for the tingling to go away, which is when she could walk again.)

So every year on Thanksgiving, my mother would set the table for breakfast...

I still use her ruby red/clear glasses, my sister's ruby red vase, my grandfather's drink mixer, and my grandmother's glasses with little clear glass balls forming the bases.

We all always loved red, making up for not being able to wear it in every other way imaginable  (with the exception of red vehicles, show the dirt too fast).

...and make pancakes from a boxed mix, my sister and I watched the parades on TV,

while my father (if he was lucky enough to be home on leave) would finish up any paperwork he had brought home.

We'd eat breakfast, finish watching all the parades, and race off to my grandmother's house,

where we would feast on a perfectly baked turkey, along with all the fixin's, right down to homemade cranberry and orange sauce, on her embroidered tablecloth.

Later in life, my parents, my children, and I would migrate to my sister's house where her husband would do the dirty work ( AKA COOK), and loved it.  He was a great cook (he had even made his own trail mix to take with him on the A.T. for his last hike).

And soooo, when the time came that I would be baking my very own Thanksgiving dinner, I called my mother and asked her to send me not only the specific directions for stuffing and cooking the turkey, but the recipe for my grandmother's cranberry and orange sauce.

This is what she sent me....

"Remove Swanson's Frozen Turkey TV Dinner from freezer, then from box, in that order.
Place in oven at specified temperature on box.  Set the timer per directions on box, however, do not remove from oven until you see bubbling.
Remove from oven.
Eat the red stuff between the potatoes and peas while arranging other items in an attractive manner on your best china.

Do you have Christmas plates? I saw the prettiest set in Jordan Marsh for 50% off.  You ought to go look.  Will you be skiing Thanksgiving afternoon?    Your sister will be in Vermont at her sister-in-law's so I have made reservations.   Talk to you soon.          Mother "

She followed up with a short phone call.  "Are you still planning on cooking?  I taught you how to make reservations.  Your father and I are going to the Radisson for their buffet, would you like to drive up and join us?"    "No, Thank You, I am still cooking."     "Oh, well, make sure the fire extinguisher your father gave you is handy..."

I have since learned to cook a passable Thanksgiving turkey (Thanks to the Butterball Turkey Hot-Line ), as well as fit in all the other traditional activities.  The least of which would be saying a silent Thank You our ancestors John Alden, and his wife Priscilla Mullins.  If they had not gotten on that boat with John's father heaven only knows where I'd be now. I need to reside in a country where one can call for help  (specifically help that arrives in either pretty blue cars, or big red trucks....) and expect it to respond in a reasonable fashion.  

I have already had my first accidental fire of the season this afternoon while baking my mincemeat pie ( controversial pie, I know, ya either love it or hate it, I simply cannot live without it on Thanksgiving).  While attempting to remove the pie from the oven, an advertising flyer flew off the counter, into the oven, and landed perfectly in the bottom of the electric oven.  Directly on the element.   I thought I distinctly heard my mother saying "I told you to make reservations," while my sister was howling in the background...

When I get up at 4 AM to put the turkey in the oven (yes I am one of those, perish the thought the thing does not fully cook  (Thanks Mom, for instilling the fear of salmonella in the very heart of my being...), I will be watching my favorite dysfunctional family Thanksgiving movie...

...  and saying my silent Thank You's for all the things I am truly Thankful for, which includes you, dear reader, for your continuing encouragement in my quest to save the odd bits and pieces of my family and my life, for my children and my grandson. 


  1. Your mother sounds like my MIL.. That woman did not know how to make deviled She even had my FIL make it as he was leaving to work..omg, the look on his face.. Btw, I liked Swanson's Turkey dinner!. It was a great treat whenever my Dad would go w/his buddies to Vegas and my mom wouldn't cook..

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  3. Those are some wonderful pictures and memories. I LOVE those red dishes, and you do have a whole lot to be grateful for. Thanks for sharing all your memories with me... oh, and good luck with that turkey. I'm sure it will all turn out fabulously and you will, I hope, share it with your virtual friends.

  4. I love the Swanson's too, aren't the peas and potatoes great!?! :}

    After correcting an entire comment (comedy...) of errors, I have to run, I smell something burning... again.... *sigh*

  5. Love your post which brought lots of memories flooding back of my own family. I have some very similar photographs. My Dad was away on leave a lot when I was a little girl and I desperately looked forward to the days he'd be back. Loved those family dinners, good and bad.

  6. What a fantastic post. I love family stories, especially so when they are with photos!
    Have a nice Thanksgiving...




  8. Ahhh -- my daughter is cooking her first Thanksgiving dinner. All we have to bring is mashed potatoes, stuffing, deviled eggs, bean casserole, desert......

  9. Make sure you cook the turkey upside down. It makes for a juicier turkey.

  10. I just love the old family photos you post. I have many as well, wish I could motivate myself to scan those pictures. Have a great Thanksgiving. Don't overeat!!

  11. Happy Thanksgiving - love all the details of your childhood Thanksgivings. Your Grandmothers cranberry and orange sauce sounds delicious. Love the special red glass ware that you used - family traditions are always wonderful.

  12. Mincemeat pie fanatic, here, and that's my favorite holiday movie, too. Love Holly Hunter in everything and anything. I'll even admit to being fond of fruitcake--heavy on the pecans and citron, forget the pineapple and cherries. Happiest of Holidays!

  13. Hi Joni, Happy Thanksgiving to you...there's still 2 minutes left! I loved your post, as usual! I laughed out loud at your mom's note. I see you get your great sense of humor from her. Loved all your photos too. Enjoy your weekend! xo Paulette

  14. To write in Russian I use an online translating program: You type in something and identify what language you want it translated to. Pretty darn nifty.

  15. Thanks for sharing the photos and stories, Joni. I nice glimpse into your family traditions. And Happy Thanksgiving!