The Good Old Days: Grandparents and Thanksgiving

Kempton was always known as the small town with the big heart; the town of my mother’s family beginnings; her grandparents, my grandmother who had passed away in 1958, aunts, uncles and my great aunt, Lulu Pearl. My earliest memories of Kempton were on Thanksgiving Day at Aunt Lu’s two bedroom corner, blue cottage neatly painted in white trim. A vegetable garden was meticulously maintained in the back with her specialties of beets and tomatoes while well-trimmed shrubs surrounded the foundation of the home.

Coming from the city, my immediate family was always the first to arrive while Aunt Lu called the others to join us on her believe it or not box phone with crank and real receptionist named Jenny. That gave me plenty of time to cut out the latest Betsy McCall and her clothes. After the rest of the family arrived, we took our places behind the long table in the dining room eating from her blue willow dishes. Pumpkin pie was always her winning recipe.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving break is Grandparents Day at school; a wonderful time for those traveling to see their grandchildren. For our district, Grandparents Day is usually one of the biggest attended events with just grandparents…not sons or daughters who have kindergarten or early elementary children. Just for Grandma,  Grandpa and Grand friends…sometimes Aunts or Uncles if Grandma can’t attend. Over 300 attended today. Many become new Grandparents on that day for children who do not have a guest. A study out of the University of Oxford found children who are close to their grandparents have fewer emotional and behavioral problems, and are better able to cope with traumatic life events, like a divorce or bullying at school.

Though she never learned to drive, Aunt Lu would find her way to our house in the city by my cousin every summer. I could always count on a game of Yahtzee every time I offered and she always made the best fried potatoes in town. Because of unpredictable weather, the winter months were generally confined to her little town in Kempton but one year she came to stay and had arrived two days after Christmas. It was unusual for her to venture out in the cold months but my father was in the hospital. Children were not allowed to visit during the 1960’s and Aunt Lu felt she could help.

During her first night’s visit, the phone had disturbed our usual game of Yahtzee and after that I found that Aunt Lu could offer so much more than games. It was a nurse from the hospital; my father had passed away. Though I was 12 and tried to be adult, Aunt Lu let me cry as long as it took, keeping her arms around me, never tiring or disturbing me from my tears. What incredible timing for Aunt Lu’s calming patience in such a terrible storm. Ten years later, Aunt Lu passed away after passionately celebrating her 90th birthday with her family.

Today, I appreciate the towering strength she provided that day and the strenuous days that followed; never perceiving the no pomp and circumstance woman as one of the most salient women I was blessed to know. And I try to follow her loving example everyday reminding myself that every tragedy as has a reason.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sno-caps, Raisinets or Junior Mints?

A second grader approached me one day and was telling me about her trip to the movie theater. She wasn’t a big popcorn eater but how she loved Sno-caps candy. When I was exactly her age decades ago, it was Sno-caps for me instead of popcorn. A lot cheaper too! Prices have jumped over 600 percent to buy candy at the movies; a dollar, however, would do it during my time. My best friend always chose Raisinets. If all else failed, Junior Mints was the final choice.

We also talked about how we never had that candy at any other time but at the movies. These were the movie candy choices, I suppose.

So, of course, I went to the movies with my adult daughter a week later and had to try out Sno-caps. Unfortunately, the sprinkles got between my teeth and I did not experience the same nonpareil satisfaction as before. My teeth are certainly not the same either. Though, I did save the box and shared with the second grader that I truly enjoyed my trip to the movies.

Sno -Caps have been around a long time. The candy was introduced in the late 1920s by the Blumenthal Chocolate Company. Ward Foods acquired Blumenthal in 1969. Terson Company bought the product and Nestle finally acquired the candy in 1984. Sno-caps are bite sized Nestles chocolate, covered with white sprinkles.

Chocolate-covered raisins are still popular and Raisinets are currently made by Nestlé.  They come in all sorts of packages, sold around the world and come in special movie theater boxes today. The raisins are from California with fruit antioxidants and thirty percent less fat. An important choice for splurging at the movies!

Junior Mints are a candy brand consisting of small rounds of mint filling inside a dark chocolate coating. The product is currently produced by Tootsie Roll Industries.  The product was launched in 1949 and named after a series of articles that was produced into a Broadway play, Junior Miss. However, the play had closed six years before the candy was introduced. In 1945, the play was adapted to a film and radio show. Over 15 million Junior Mints are produced daily in large theater boxes.

I am going to the movies today and I have a taste for popcorn! Today, cinemas have moved beyond the original popcorn, candy choices and sell burgers, quesadillas, and pizzas. Even beer and wine is an option.  Some classic films are paired with specific fine wines…..hmmm.

Maybe, I will just try some Junior Mints.

Just Thankful

Thanksgiving’s historical beginnings belong to the Pilgrims and the Winnebago Indians who celebrated the harvest festival. For us, it is a day of remembrance that we spend with family featuring fine foods such as turkey, giblets, stuffing, potatoes, vegetables and a variety of pies, pumpkin usually being the first on everyone’s list. Good food, though a part of the Thanksgiving history, is always a priority and excuse for any holiday here in the US.

However, another added tribute to Thanksgiving is football in America as the male counterparts of the family gather in front of the set, stomachs ready for the game ahead though in some households many try to make that annual attempt to toss their own ball in the back as the women wait to see who will be the first injured player. But that is ok, it is tradition.

As families prepare for the festivities gathering the necessary ingredients for the grand table, many do find some quiet time to evaluate the year and decide what they are truly thankful for during the holiday season. And the list can vary from the joy of being a grandparent to even finding a close parking space on Black Friday. But, thankfully, Thanksgiving encourages the lists of thanks for the simple pleasures, wonderful people, and maybe just another year of life to spend with those we love. Gratitude is taught and hopefully remembered throughout our days beyond the yearly celebration where we can truly reflect on how lucky we are in our own light.

So here it is again, my list of never ending thankful moments and surprisingly, with the exception of new personal introductions of family and friends, it always focuses on the same.

  • I am thankful for time and not wasting it.
  • I am thankful for great books, hobbies and the word bored that is not a part of my vocabulary
  • I am thankful for logs in my fireplace and the fire starters that really work.
  • I am thankful that I refuse to give up on my dreams.
  • I am thankful that I will never be too old.
  • I am thankful that my daughter bakes better pastries than me.
  • I am thankful that Len does all the cooking
  • But I am thankful for my son who gave me a instant pot to try to cook once again and I love it
  • I am thankful for all my classroom children that teach me how to be a child again
  • I am thankful for Gladys Knight and the Pips my favorite recording of “You Are the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” because it honors so many in my life.
  • I am thankful for our service men and women who courageously fight today and sacrifice their own desires
  • I am thankful for my pet, who is always waiting for me
  • I am thankful that I don’t have to choose my words carefully; my pet always knows what I mean.
  • I am thankful that my mistakes have guided others.
  • I am thankful for all of you who so faithfully read my articles and for those out there that always bounce back when life seems to curve so dangerously without warning and inspire others to charge ahead with positive anticipation and grace.

And, finally, as my personal collection of years keep passing me by, I am truly grateful that my gratitude list richly grows for without the essence of being grateful for so much, nothing else can make a difference.

Originally published in Grand Magazine http://www.grandmagazine.com/2012/11/what-to-be-thankful-for-this-thanksgiving/

Talking turkey

By Caryl Clem:

Coastal Thanksgiving festivals

Feature local stars to dance unto tables.

Juicy duets of cranberry and apple

Bacon flavor veggies with caramelized onion.

Russian Salmon Pie and Salmon Mousse share room

Pumpkin or squash cream cheese couples.

Dixie land Spoon Bread, Johnny Cake

Competes with rich Pecan Pie to partake

Or Southern favorite Shoofly Sweet Potato Pie.

A sweet tooth finds impossible to deny.

Dressing the turkey, bread and shored oysters

Blend taste sensations of land and waters .

Texans deep fry the turkey in the finale

Served alongside steaming hot tamales.

Mid-west maple or cider  marinated turkeys glazed

Empty plates to earn words of praise.

Kicked up with Southwestern hot chili pepper

Cranberry/Orange cinnamon spice sauce flavor

No matter what your family consumes

Relax, enjoy relatives tasty customs.

Thankful for copy machines

Once again, I have to call the specialists from the main office. While I am copying away on colored paper, two sided and stapled, it digitally informs me that there is a jam somewhere in the monster of the machine. It happens quite alot for me sometimes asking for permission to go on…strange commands…that even the jam specialists are not sure what they mean….time to re-set.

And believe it or not, during my first year of teaching, it was Mrs. Johnson, a senior teacher, who taught me how to copy classroom material on the good old mimeograph machine, or a ditto machine; that many of you may never have heard of before. I was terrified and I had to watch carefully…many times. It had become an art for her. All staff at the school watched her turn out perfect copy. I don’t think that happened for me.

There was also a distinctive smell with the freshly printed paper. The ditto machine used an alcohol-based fluid to dissolve some of the dye in the document, and transferred the image to the copy paper. The smell came from the ditto machine’s duplicating fluid, a mix of methanol and isopropanol.

Mimeographs, along with spirit duplicators (ditto machines) , were a common technology in printing small quantities, as in office work, classroom materials, and church bulletins. It was widespread and cheap. In the late 1960’s, early 1970’s, mimeographs, spirit duplicators, and hectographs began to be gradually replaced by photocopying. But photocopying machines were extremely expensive.

It wasn’t too long after that we experienced our first Xerox machine. Xerox became so successful that, in North America, photocopying came to be popularly known as “xeroxing.” I still say it. And the training was so intensive even though collating, colored paper or stapling was not an option.

Now, its a commercial, digital or analog copy machine. And Xerox is still around..quite the giant… though there are several brands. The average office copy machine cost $1,500 with higher grade copiers reaching $12,000 and beyond depending on printing speed, quality, and advanced features like stapling, scanning and faxing options. You may rent or lease them as well.

This time I did not call the jam patrol. I decided to take a deep breath and not be so afraid of making a situation worse. Now, the arrow points to exactly where the jam is and it was where the paper fed into the machine. Typical, but I did not see anything. I removed the paper,re stacked the paper and closed the drawer. I hit start and I couldn’t believe it…..it worked! Wow, maybe I will try this again sometime!

 

Thankful for brothers

By Caryl Clem

No matter how many cards were surveyed

Not one lengthy card accurately conveyed

The man who is my brother and friend

Thoughtful,wise,whose mind is always open

Searching, discovering innovations

His talent, continually fresh expressions

For your birthday, I wish for you

Feeling pride in what you are able to do

Eagerness to live each day renewed

Stay ageless, conquering time with emotion

As a sister, I couldn’t be luckier

Thankful to have and love you, my brother

Just thankful

The last day of school was my birthday. Now I am old enough to legally retire but I won’t. It was also Grandparents/ Grand friends Day, surrounded by those that know and truly get me. Not one myself…yet But certainly a celebratory holiday before Thanksgiving break. And when I walked into my first grade class yesterday, the other teacher had a plant, chocolate which I can’t live without, and a beautiful portrait of the twenty three girls and boys holding a Happy Birthday sign.  Then as they do for all birthdays in the classroom, they put together a birthday book for me to treasure. I found out that I was osum (awesome), amazing , nice and actually smart. Who knew?

As the day went on Grandparents visited sharing how we had to walk to school, did not have IPADS and didn’t get a holiday called Grandparents Day when we were growing up. Later in the day after the grand group left, we switched gears and decided to focus on the final turkey project: what I was thankful for this year.  I made one too and it didn’t take me long to write how thankful I was for all of them in the classroom.

The day was not over after coming home to Happy Birthday decorations, hundreds of beautiful Facebook messages which I truly appreciated. Finally, the end of the day approached with a wonderful meal at my favorite restaurant with family.

Today, I decided to think about my own writing of what I was Thankful for back in my day when I was a child. I wonder if  had written a thankful message in first grade? Probably not, because I was not very good in that particular grade. I wondered what my own children had been thankful….probably just an extended holiday from school.

I saved many of my own elementary writings that I had recently bound in a book  according to dates through the years.

So I opened the cover of the book today and was shocked to find one of the first writings saved. It was written on November 21, 1967, my birthday just fifty years ago yesterday…..just. I had just turned 12 and it was written in cursive with ,of course, my favorite type of pen, the blue cartridge. And at the top of the paper it said Warren School, Room 104, Grade 7.

I was thankful for Thanksgiving in the Country

I can’t wait to eat my aunt’s turkey, cranberries, vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy on Thanksgiving Day. My cousin will be there and we can talk and play games. After dinner we will probably take a ride in the country and see the leaves of red, brown and gold fall from  the trees. We may even see snow. My aunts pumpkin pie will taste good after the long ride. When it is time to leave, I will say to my self “I wish it would never end” but then if it weren’t for the Pilgrims, we would not have this wonderful day to enjoy every year.

Yes, it was family tradition to travel about an hour from the southside of Chicago to a small town just south of Kankakee…in fact there were two towns. When I was very young, it was Kempton where my mother’s family was raised, the small town with the big heart sign always greeted us at the turn off to town and in later years, it was in Cullom, only about 500 people, where my cousins were in charge of dinner just a few miles from Kempton.  Here we would join family for a Thanksgiving feast many who have passed and some who I still keep in touch today.

And my first graders are better writers than I ever was…..

Regardless of whether you are dining together with family or friends in the city or country or spending sometime alone…..Have a blessed Thanksgiving Day!