A good man provides for his family’s needs, but the woman is the heart of the home.
As autumn turns its pumpkin face into Thanksgiving’s horn of plenty, I feel the chill of something missing. I remember all the Thanksgiving gatherings when I was a kid, and even into marriage, and the satisfying joy of children of our own joining in.
In earlier years, our family celebrated Thanksgiving at the home of Uncle Donnie, Aunt Dorothy, Donna and Dan Lewis. We always had the usual turkey feast and, along with that, lots of laughter and innocent pranks way beyond dessert. Mom did the honors on Christmas day, including elderly fellow Moravians who had no place to go.
In Pat’s family, there was scant room in any one house for the twelve siblings, spouses, and children, by the time I joined the clan. As long as Ma and Daddy Burns lived on the Wyattville farm, the whole bunch was welcomed there, for a festive, rollicking goodtime, and always room for more. Now, the Burns family picnic every July serves as the get-together of the year. Personal bonds were nurtured through kitchen duty and tending to little tots underfoot. One by one, the families have lost mothers and dads, aunts and uncles, and on down the line, carried along in loving thoughts and hearts. It seems the women of today are tied to the apron strings of their ancestors.
The one constant in my life has been my sister Mary, one year younger that me. On the same wavelength, sisters seem to be tuned into one another. There’s contentment in knowing what the other is thinking and feeling, in a glance, words unspoken.
My mind has been drifting back to an era when all kitchen duties were woman’s work. That wasn’t all bad. I warmly recall the fellowship – woman to woman. Sunday dinners after church services were often prepared by my Aunt Alma, out at Wollin’s Bethany farm.
When my mother had Sunday dinner, I loved helping in the kitchen, peeling tators, stirring the gravy smooth, unmolding the Jell-O, and serving coffee. Mom’s fragile China, silver, and Fostoria goblets would be carefully retrieved from the China cabinet. Cloth napkins, starched, ironed, and folded immaculately, were properly placed. A delectable climax, dessert was met with ooohs and aaahs!
Those days, women folk spent hours in a sweltering kitchen preparing and serving hearty, attractive meals. They would linger at the messy table while savoring that final cup of coffee, before cleaning up and washing dishes, by hand of course. Kitchen conversations were riveting for a young girl! Whispered comments about one of the men or another, muffled snickers, familiar girl talk, and lighthearted banter kept us all sane.
Rousing from rejuvenating snoozes, from every comfy chair in the house, the men entertained themselves with card games, like Rook and five hundred, and cribbage challenges. The women took a break, playing pinochle, rummy, dominos, and checkers with the few young people that were there. Before long it was time for the gals to start all over again, setting out leftovers and additional delicacies for the evening meal, often followed by homemade poppy seed cake. It’s been said that a girl doesn’t become a woman until her mother passes away. Let’s just say that’s it’s a rude awakening. The giant roaster and Mother’s stuffing recipe were passed on to me at an early age, several years before we lost our dear mother, Meta Lewis, to cancer in 1979. There was quite a group of us back then. Young people popped in and out, to chat and catch up with our three, long past their teen teens.
A few years back, as my health dictated, the Thanksgiving preparations were passed on to the capable, nurturing hands of our daughter Kelly. Our Thanksgiving dinner table has gotten smaller by the years. Grandchildren will one day fill out new branches of their inherited family tree.
Family traditions are cherished and passed on...woman to woman. Share the love on Thursday...memory to memory. I wish you well.
Janet Burns resides in Lewiston. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org