Sunday, November 23, 2014
It is a cold and rainy and very dismal Sunday afternoon here in Georgia. I went to church and made it through until the minister said at the end, "Let's take a few seconds of silence to think about the joy of Thanksgiving and all the people who've been around our Thanksgiving tables of the past," or at least that's what I understood him to say.
Well, that's a killer for me, as with great joy, I remember all those Thanksgivings of my childhood and later in my adulthood when my children and my husband and I would head down to Mother and Daddy's for a feast (all cooked by Mother, except when I was older, I did do the scalloped oysters for a few years).
I've written about this before, so I won't elaborate here. It's just that I no longer celebrate with my brother and his children and their families. They all have their places to go now. And, of course, Mother and Daddy and my husband, who loved my mother's cooking so much, are all gone. That's who I thought of, of course.
Every Thanksgiving since my husband's sudden death in 1999 has been different. By 2002, my parents, then in their 90's, could no longer put on the spread they had done for years. My sister-in-law and I tried to cobble together something at their house. It was the first time I'd ever had pieces of chicken in the dressing. She'd brought it from Louisiana, and it's not that it wasn't good. It just wasn't my mother's cornbread dressing, with the hint of celery and onion.
I guess the worst Thanksgiving of my life, though, was the November after Mother had to go into a nursing home. I cooked all week, and my husband's sister and her family all came. I had to leave and drive 50 miles to get Mother. When we arrived back at my house, I realized I'd forgotten her wheel chair. So, I improvised. I got my rolling desk chair from my office upstairs, and she was helped into the house and sat down. We wheeled her into the dining room.
That was the mistake, I think, that set her off. My mother, the warmest, most gracious and cheerful woman in the world, scowled at everything. Not only would she not touch one morsel of food, she would not even take a sip of water. Seeing it was a lost cause, I left before dessert was served and drove her back to Newnan.
But, that's not the Thanksgiving table I thought of today. I concentrated on Chip and Mother and Daddy and saw us all sitting there at the big table, Mother's two cornucopias spilling fake grapes and gourds onto the linen tablecloth, our plates laden with green beans, creamed corn, lima beans (the three latter from their summer garden), turkey, dressing, scalloped oysters, sweet potatoes, cranberry salad and Mama's homemade rolls. I saw the relish tray sitting there untouched.
This is not what I had intended to talk about! I wanted to describe how the scene above, which I did for the St. Luke's Park Board's November meeting, didn't cost me a cent. I took everything from the yard or from the farm, except the striped pumpkin-looking gourds, which my friend Benjie had given me.
Here are the elements. You may have to look closely to pick them out: Beech leaves, nandina foliage and berries, china berries, moss I'd had in my basement for years, the fruit of Poncirus trifoliata (hardy orange) from my yard, and a strip of bark from the wood pile.
I am wrong about the money. Those were oranges, apples and mangoes I'd bought to eat (you can't see that my dog had bitten the mangoes and decided against them - he has separation anxiety and does things like that), and it looks like I threw in some key limes. I always buy them when I see them, intending to make a pie, which I never do (I end up using them in iced tea instead). All this was centered around pieces from my husband's decoy collection: a goose, a shore bird and a mallard. The setting was a beautiful dining room in the venerable St. Luke's Episcopal Church on Peachtree Street.