I spent this Thanksgiving Day reliving memories of Thanksgivings past at my Great Aunt Lena’s.
Thanksgiving Day of 1949, we traveled from our home at Grandma Faye’s, up the road south a quarter mile, over the bridge and into the mile long corn cob “graveled” farm lane of Aunt Lena’s. Because of the large snow drifts, Dad drove the tractor pulling us behind in a hay filled farm wagon.
My dog, Mitzi, who moved with us from California, rode along over the bumpy lane. She was excited about the ride and the snow. Leaning over the edge of the wagon too far, she bounced out. The wagon ran over her head. That’s all I remember of my first Thanksgiving in Nebraska.
Mitzi survived, mostly because of Grandma Faye’s nursing. She was put in the barn loft until she healed. All that time I wasn’t allowed to see her. Finally, she was out of the “hospital”. Mitzi was blind now, but otherwise her old self.
She lived with us many more years after we moved into Winnetoon. If Mom rearranged the furniture, Mitzi bumped into it for a few days until she became acclimated. If we left home to go uptown (a half block away), she would sniff our trail to find us.
Later Thanksgivings hold more pleasant memories…of family and food. I can still hear Aunt Lena’s son giving the Thanksgiving blessing in his deep, gruff voice.
The Thanksgiving meal was always plentiful. What I remember most was Aunt Lena’s flatbread, her spritz sugar cookies, her homemade butter molded with fancy cuts and her roasted, buttered, salted walnuts. But I never learned to stomach her “pumpkin pie” made from mashed carrots. Aunt Lena was a very frugal Norwegian.
But it was Aunt Lena’s house that intrigued me the most.
Aunt Lena lived in the big old two story house built by her father (my great, great grandfather). It was much the same as when he built it, except for being 75 years old and a bit run down.
Entering Aunt Lena’s house was a time warp. Entrance was made into the enclosed porch by a north door. Then, you had to fumble in the dark for a several feet to find the fur buggy robe and push it aside to open the grayed kitchen door.
Just inside that door hung a razor strap and small mirror above a wash pan with homemade lye soap and shaving supplies on a small bench. On the opposite wall, next to the door leading to the dining room, sat the big old wood burning kitchen range which Aunt Lena used for cooking and baking. This was always adorned by a pan of slimy, gray dishwater…there was no running water or kitchen sink.
There were windows on the south, on the north were cabinets reaching to the ceiling and a entry door into a long narrow pantry, filled with cabinets and work space. I always wanted to peek into those cabinets to see if they were filled with my great, great grandmother’s treasures. At the east end of the pantry was another door opening into the dining room.
On the south wall of the dining room between two windows, sat the huge black and chrome heating stove with a rocker on each side. The west wall was curtained to hide shelves of magazines stacked to the ceiling, many from the early 1900’s and even a few from the 1890’s.
The east wall had a simple desk with an ancient radio and books, along with an old rocker and a fainting couch. In front of that couch sat a curious little upholstered footstool with cow horns for legs. In the middle of the room was a overly large dining table surrounded by chairs. An antique chiming clock hung on a special shelf on the west wall between the doors accessing the kitchen and pantry.
On the north wall between two doors was a country style glass front cabinet showing off great, great grandma’s dishes.
Actually, there were three doors on this wall, one led to a bedroom, the next to the stairway and the other to “The Room”. “The Room” was always closed off and colder than the outdoors. In it were a big bookcase, a china closet and some toys from long ago.
Upstairs were three bedrooms. The south one was almost overtaken by a rug loom. In another room in a dresser were several wooden stick horses. Oh, how, we coveted those horses.
An old tin toy, a board game and a castle bank entertained us after many holiday meals.
One Thanksgiving when we were full and lounging around, Mom’s little sister and I decided to dust the little horned legged footstool. We pounded and pounded the upholstery. Dust from back in great, great grandma’s day, rolled out and filled the dining room. Not one adult corrected us or said stop. To this day, we wonder, “Why did they let us get by with such a trick?”
Writing this has made me very nostalgic for the long gone farm home and my ancestors.
How I wish I could walk through Great Aunt Lena’s house again and talk with her of our family. Today I would appreciate all that she cherished, instead of beating the life out of my great, great grandparent’s horn legged footstool.
And, guess what, that little horn legged footstool now has a place of honor in my home.
[Editor's note: My apologies to Gayle for not getting this posted sooner. And thanks to her, once again, for another wonderful, descriptive story! I can almost imagine choking on the dust from that footstool!]