A Thanksgiving Memory

My mother had a classic set of nesting Pyrex bowls.

Only the blue and yellow ones survived. She used the blue one for mixing up the gravy thickening. Nowadays, it usually contains Jell-O.  The yellow one had many purposes. Most often it was for popcorn. But Thanksgiving day it had an even more delicious duty.

Thanksgiving Eve we would, as a family, lay out slices of bread. We covered the kitchen table and all the counters with bread. Then early Thanksgiving morning, we sat around the and broke the now-stale slices into small pieces and put them in the big yellow bowl while Mom chopped celery and onions.  We had to prepare the dressing (some of you may know it as stuffing, but we called it dressing) so it could cook inside the turkey.

Thanksgiving dinner was a family project. From setting a festive table, to sprinkling the paprika on the cream-cheese stuffed celery, to literally breaking the bread, we all chipped in.

What are some of your Thanksgiving memories?


Mommy Files: Birthday Cake Fiasco

My husband and I grew up in different cultures. He’s from a high-rise in the Bronx. My roots are in rural upstate New York. His mother bought his birthday cakes at the corner bakery. My mom baked mine from scratch.

When our children were young, I decided it would be fun for the three of us to bake my husband a birthday cake ourselves. Y & X-Chromos enthusiastically agreed. From scratch! We had such fun, measuring, stirring, tiptoeing around so the cake wouldn’t fall in the oven.

But Mommy made two mistakes. It had been so long since I’d baked and frosted/decorated a cake, I forgot one important thing, and didn’t consider a second important thing.

  • We didn’t wait for the cake to completely cool before we frosted and decorated it. Oops.
  • Even worse, we needed a place to hide the cake so TV Stevie wouldn’t see it. So we put it in the oven. Which also hadn’t completely cooled. Double-oops.

The next day, TV’s birthday, I discovered those errors. Oh, the cake was edible. But the decorations had melted into the frosting, making a pastel tie-die effect.

I think that was the last time I attempted to bake cake. The Chromos and I settled for a future of baking quick breads and cookies. X-Chromo spent many hours in college perfecting the art of molasses cookies.

At least I didn’t traumatize the children.



Neighbor of My Youth

As previously mentioned, I grew up in a rural neighborhood. This could be a challenge when selling Girl Scout cookies, which we did door-to-door back then. In March. In Upstate NY, where it snows a lot. My cousin and I, the same age, next-door-neighbors, would sell together. She’d sell one house, I’d take the next. A team effort.

That’s how we knew people. Or of them. Like Bill Peavert. Mr. Peavert lived in a shack. He heated the shack with a wood stove. He had a note thumbtacked to his door: “If you hear music, I’m home.” Mr. Peavert didn’t drive, that I recall. He always bought cookies from us, carefully counting out his money from a change jar.

My mom and one of her friends up the valley used to joke about wearing their “backless frontless gowns” and going out with Bill Peavert.

When he passed, I think we were all surprised to learn he had a son.

I have two other memories of Mr. Peavert. One night, my step-grandfather, who lived next door to us, called because someone was trying to break into the house. Dad grabbed his twenty-two and went to take care of the matter. Turns out Mr. Peavert had gone on a bender and thought he was home and was upset he couldn’t get in. Dad loaded him into the car and drove him home.

Several years later, my folks had picked me up from a party one Friday night. As we were turning off the highway onto our road, we saw something flailing in the ditch.  Dad pulled over to investigate. Mr. Peavert was drunk again. I scrambled into the front seat with Mom. Peavert recognized my father. “Ain’t you the sum-bitch who tried to shoot me?” “Yes,” Dad replied, as he folded the man into the backseat. We drove Mr. Peavert home again.



Memory: Trick or Treat for UNICEF

When I was living in my first apartment, going to the laundromat was a new experience. There was always a very young girl there, seven or eight years old at the most, who begged for quarters for the machines. (Yes, back then, the washers and dryers took quarters. ) She had short, mousy brown hair, with bangs that framed her huge blue eyes. Eyes that were pools of suffering.

Early in the month of October, I started seeing the girl all around the plaza (there was a supermarket, a drugstore, and other small retail establishments in addition to the laundromat) and other places in the neighborhood. She carried a Trick or Treat for UNICEF box. The misery in her eyes broke my heart. She used the UNICEF box until Thanksgiving.

Maybe her parents/guardians didn’t force her into begging for money–and you know whatever she collected in the UNICEF box didn’t go to the United Nations Children’s Fund–but my heart tells me they did. And she hated it.

I sometimes wonder what happened to her.



Analyzing a Book Series

Image credit: tieury / 123RF Stock Photo

The final installment of one of my favorite series of books is coming out next week. I’m looking forward to the story so much that I am re-reading the entire series to get myself immersed in the characters again. I’ve preordered the Kindle version, not something I usually do.

The heroine is a real-estate agent who sees ghosts. The hero is an author. I can’t believe I forgot to add these titles to my earlier blog regarding books about authors, but I did.

I’ve started making notes on these books as I re-read them. In book 1, the author places the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, NY instead of Rochester, MN. In book 2, the hero removes a locket from the heroine’s neck and pockets it,  yet a few pages later, a ghost rips it from the heroine’s neck.  Neat trick.

So much for editors at the traditional Big 5 Publishers.

But there’s more to my study of these books than finding inaccuracies.

When I read the sixth installment–the last one before the release next week–I was livid. I could not believe the hero was such a jerk at the end of the book. He was angry at the heroine for keeping secrets–when he was just as guilty.

Until I re-read Book One recently. His ex-fiancé kept a devastating secret from him. At the end of Book Two and in Book Three, we learn his college girlfriend kept a life-changing secret from him.  I never put all of this together into a motivation for him until re-reading the books this time around.  Powerful motivation, yes, but the heroine’s trust issues are rooted  in a backstory just as powerful. And at the end of Book Six, the hero betrayed her.

So yes, I am seeking a happy ending in Book Seven.