THANKSGIVINGS PAST

In my childhood, Thanksgiving Day dinner meant company. Grandma and Grandpa Neff came downstairs from their apartment on the second floor of our farmhouse. Dad would go to Farnham to bring Grandma and Grandpa Bryce to the farm.

Aunt Seb, Uncle Gerald, Keith, Norma, and baby Louise came. My uncle would go straight through the kitchen down the stairs to find the large crock in the dirt cellar that held my mother’s doughnuts. Coming up with one in each hand he’d give Mom a hug.

While Mom and Aunt Seb chatted and cooked dinner, Uncle Gerald and my father would take guns to wander through the woods hunting deer. They never shot any. I was never sure Dad would have killed a deer if it came and stood in front of him. We kids got out all my toys and spread them about.         A fat stuffed rooster would be on the menu with extra stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, cabbage salad, beet pickles, cinnamon apples, Aunt Seb’s date bread and rolls. For dessert Mom would have baked mincemeat and pumpkin pies.

 

Living in Philadelphia the first year of marriage, we contacted the University of Penn to find one or two foreign students who would be left alone for the holiday. We invited a young university couple from India to have dinner with us. I served the usual menu, but most everything was new to them. I’m not sure they enjoyed it. But that Thanksgiving dinner was an adventure for them and us.

 

Many years later, it was our turn to have Thanksgiving in a different culture. Our first year in Warsaw, it felt important to celebrate our American holiday. We invited a single mom and her daughter from the American Embassy to dinner. It was a pleasant day with them. However, the day felt strange. No one around us understood what we celebrated. For the next three years we lived in Warsaw, we spent the day enjoying Poland, instead of trying to recreate our culture in a different one.

 

My husband and I spent one more Thanksgiving out of the country. In 2003 we were in Ahuas, Honduras, at a medical facility where I taught missionary children. One doctor was American. His wife, a Honduran doctor, did her best to create a Thanksgiving dinner for her husband and us during a busy day seeing and caring for patients. Again it felt a little of place.

 

This Thanksgiving will be with my family. My son will stuff and roast the turkey and bring a grape pie. My daughter-in-law will make a cranberry and pomagrante relish and bring a red wine. My daughter will make salad and bring white wine. Her wife will provide appetizers. And I will cook potatoes, make baked apples, and an apple pie.  It will be a celebration midst a country of celebrants.

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DARK DAYS

Paris has been on everyone’s mind the last several days. I was taken by a commentary on CNN about the “terrorists.” Who are they? Where do they come from?

The commentator said most of them had grown to adulthood in street gangs. Why? In the gangs they find acceptance, some one knows their name, they gain a kind of power they’d never had before. They are easy marks for ISIS and other terror-type groups. The groups offer what these young men have never had. She also noted that on the street they have learned how to move about in a city and from country to country and make themselves invisible in a crowd.

There is so much discussion of not letting in immigrants because a terrorist might come with them. How about an American who has gone to a country in Europe, smuggled themselves into Syria and are returning home on a US passport to become one of a terrorist team in this country? I’m afraid it’s more than possible. I think it is highly probable.

We now know the president was warned that an attack on the US was imminent in September 2011, but mostly ignored. I think we need to heed warning that there are probably homegrown terrorists in the US, which has nothing to do with immigration.

Below I have copied a post from my friend, Carol. It is thoughtful and spoke to me.

The news from Paris is frightening, the inhumanity of mankind is frightening, extremism seems to be running rampant. It makes me wonder if there is any hope for mankind. It’s as if we are reliving the horrors of 9/11.

The knee-jerk reactions from the powers that be are also frightening to me. The response to the horror in Paris is to inflict more horror upon Syria and other countries where ISIS is destroying life. The governors of Alabama and Michigan have said they will not take immigrants from Syria – because one of the terrorists in Paris came into France with a stream of immigrants. But does that make all immigrants a threat to us? Aren’t the majority of them simply trying to escape the same horrors that we are fighting? Will barring immigrants stop the terror? Have we forgotten that it was immigrants that built this country? Has anyone noticed that at least one of the terrorists was a citizen of France? Are any of these reactions the best answer? I don’t know.

I don’t know the answers. I only know that I fear the children of my grandchildren will have no peace, no sunshine, no place of safety. We have a government that does not work, a world population that knows no compromise, no willingness to allow the freedom of choice so that we can each believe as we wish, no moderation.

Darkness seems to be descending.
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I pray for light. I pray for understanding. I pray for peace.
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Now I’m going to go back to bed, and hope that when I awaken again the sun will be shining and my mind will not be filled with foreboding.

Dark Skies

Wanderings of an Elusive Mind

I feel like the skies over our world have darkened, obliterating any light that might come through, threatening the future for all of us. The news is bleak.
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The news from Paris is frightening, the inhumanity of mankind is frightening, extremism seems to be running rampant. It makes me wonder if there is any hope for mankind. It’s as if we are reliving the horrors of 9/11.

The knee-jerk reactions from the powers that be are also frightening to me. The response to the horror in Paris is to inflict more horror upon Syria and other countries where ISIS is destroying life. The governors of Alabama and Michigan have said they will not take immigrants from Syria – because one of the terrorists in Paris came into France with a stream of immigrants. But does that make all immigrants a threat to us? Aren’t the majority of them simply trying…

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POEMS OF LIFE

I have spent two days sorting my late husband’s poems. I have a notebook full, but when I go to the computer list to find them, it’s not always easy. The one below, a description of November was easy. “Delaware Drive” was not so easy. It’s address in WordPerfect: maplesentries. While frustrating, I still find satisfaction is printing and cataloging his hundreds of thoughtful verse.IMG_0535

ELEVENTH MONTH AFTERNOON

The shadows crawl quickly across
the lawn, up the tree, over the
house eating the sunshine
in preparation for the cold
darkness, a wasted effort
to prolong warmth.

The sun rushes to escape the chilled
leafless specter of branches
shivering in the November
full moon, trying to
avoid being caught
without sweater and scarf.

Even the chimney reaches higher to
catch the last fling of orange
light, hoping to stall the
loss of heated cheer,
wishing to have company in
the mourning song for
seasons past.

And I see times now past that
are replayed in wispy glimpses
of shared laughter and
worried lateness for steamed
kitchens; and children’s
schemes of imagined greatness, fading.

And I feel deep in sealed spaces
the loneliness of no answers, no invitations,
ignored greetings, changed plans, as
imaged good times are shared
by the good actors saying
the best words.

Yet here is fondness for the memories
sparked by four PM sun shadows,
an awareness of friends who care,
family that loves,
dreams ever fresh, and
hands still reaching,
one full, one empty.

Richard E. Lake
12 November 1981

BRINGING BACK MEMORIES

12 YEARS OLD
12 YEARS OLD
Bringing Back Memories

I lifted the top of my mother’s cedar chest, prepared to toss out many of the odd assortment of things she’d saved for over sixty years of marriage.

The first layer yielded artwork, and odds and ends of small items our son and daughter had supplied. I picked through them—some for keeping, others to discard.

The next layer held a crocheted afghan that spent years on the sofa until the holes became impossible to repair. As soon as one hole was mended the old yarns broke open in another place. I remembered the crocheted, multi-colored squares with absolutely no pattern. The squares were made with whatever yarn that had been left over from other projects. I laid it aside. Maybe.

Below that were newspaper clippings from local papers—many of them obituaries. I didn’t recognize most of the names. I’d not lived in Afton during any of the thirty plus years my parents had spent there. From the scraps of paper I found aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends from my farm days. I sorted out those few I knew and the rest went to the discard pile.

At the bottom of the chest, carefully folded was my mother’s wedding dress, a light gray dress which had been the height of fashion in 1925.

Next to it was a box. I lifted its cover to reveal my red velvet dress with its white lace collar. The touch of the soft fabric sent me back to fifth grade and the Christmas play our one-room school house performed in our country church.

I had the starring role as the doll in The Christmas Doll, partly because I was so short. I lifted it out fingered the collar. I held it up. The dress was a child-sized six. My mother had to shorten the dress for me. Later she let is down when I was in seventh grade. This perfect dress had been a gift from my paternal grandfather. He probably couldn’t afford it, but had insisted he wanted me to have it.

My memory of my grandfather is of a tall man with a shock of perfectly white hair. As a little child, he’d been my playmate. He played silly games with lilac leaves, listened attentively to my stories, taught me to play dominoes, which made adding fun. Whether he recognized the educational value at the time, I don’t know. When I wanted to play pinochle, he taught me.

This box went into my pile of keepers.