Reminiscing / Gloria Russell: Time for guests, special pies, family jabs

Reminiscing / Gloria Russell: Time for guests, special pies, family jabs

The Westerly Sun

As you well know, it’s Thanksgiving week. It always reminds me that when I was young there were sure to be extra places at the table for the people who were at loose ends. Sometimes it was someone we didn’t know well but my mother opened our home and hearts on that special day when we knew nobody should be alone.

I remember too, as a teenager, about 17, having to pull the dinner together because my mother was ill. I had plenty of advice and plenty of help. I really don’t remember how it went except that nobody complained (out loud) or fell off their chairs at the kitchen table.

I love those magazine or TV pictures that you see every year, with mom and the 2.3 kids watching dad carve the turkey with the beaming grandparents looking on. In most cases it isn’t like that at all, but it does give you that warm family feeling that trickles through your body when you’re sawing off pieces of a half-frozen bird or listening to grandma explain how the pie wasn’t perfect because she got into the cooking sherry. Memories are made of these.

Somebody always has to be told to please remove his baseball cap, wash their hands or tuck in their napkin, even if it’s paper. After the meal, men scatter like buckshot trying to stake a claim in front of the small screen TV. Mom, whose been up half the night, is half-dozing before a mountain of dirty dishes when squawks can be heard coming from the living room, den, closet or wherever the sneaks are, demanding another piece of pie.

Some of you may not be speaking to one another after a few jibes fly across the dinner table but you have a whole year to make up in, so try not to worry about those pinpricks that feel an awful lot like spears at the time — and oh yeah, keep your fists closed.

At my house we always had pumpkin, apple or mince pie. We mostly had mince because my mother liked it and after years of exposure to that subtlety some of the others of us even began to like it too. I have a wonderful story about mince but I can’t tell it because I really do like having my daughter in my life.

Looking back, I remember one year we expected a guest who was a renowned baker. Knife and fork (mentally) at the ready we waited with bated breath for dessert. We probably wouldn’t have been so excited had we known (beforehand) the surprise pie was coming from the supermarket!

One year I found a stuffing recipe in (of all places) the TV guide. For about 40 years I treated Thanksgiving guests to its delicious artery-hardening ingredients such as mmm…. breakfast sausage, bacon, onion, celery, apples, fresh mushrooms, bread, parsley, sage and thyme…. oh, stop! I guess it’s no wonder I’m sporting a pacemaker.

Hopefully you’ll escape playing parlor games that take hours to complete or (dreaded thought) actually have to go outside and run around. (It’s bad enough you have to go outdoors to get to the car.)

Those who haven’t slept through the football games emit sparks of life just about the time they hear stomach signals instead of the referee. But this time you can probably foist paper plates on them for sandwiches and dessert.

I’m only kidding guys, it’s usually a pleasant day and I for one would miss it terribly if something happened that wiped it off the calendar. Thanksgiving Day also reminds us that it’s time to get going on our Christmas lists because the days will slip by so quickly.

And speaking of Christmas, I hope to meet you at the ‘Reminiscing’ book signing at the Putnam Card & Gift Shoppes (Hallmark) in the Franklin Shopping Plaza on Saturday from noon to 3 p.m.

We used to be so particular about the live tree we brought into the house for Christmas.

Sometimes we had to hack off more at the bottom because under the snowy, starry night when we examined trees we remembered the living room as being 16 feet tall. The trees grew smaller after a time and then were replaced by….let’s say, well, ones that weren’t real. (Faux, if you have to be picky.) It wasn’t so bad really because they came in green, white, or God help us, pink and blue. We sprayed green ones with artificial snow, graced white ones with sparkling crystals and finally came down to a miniscule table top tree from Wal-Mart that flashes red and green and blue at the tips of whatever make believe stuff it’s made of!

As a dyed in the wool New Englander I’m kind of ashamed to admit that. But none of us here (two at last count) is brave enough to confess we don’t do woods anymore. Actually, the last time I did woods we were on a Christmas tree farm somewhere in the wilds of North Stonington (the one and only time) when I felt something at my back nudging me along. When I got irritated enough (thinking it was my husband) I turned around and found myself staring into the eyes of one big disconcerted goat. We fled in different directions.

I’m ready to flee now. But not before I wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving and to our Jewish friends, Happy Hanukkah. To those of other cultures we extend greetings of peace and good will. To the turkey of the year…Gobble, Gobble, scratch, hop…..RUN!


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