Lying around all day
with some strange new deep blue
weekend funk, I’m not really asleep
when my sister calls
to say she’s just hung up
from talking with Aunt Bertha
who is 89 and ill but managing
to take care of Uncle Frank
who is completely bed ridden.
Aunt Bert says
it’s snowing there in Arkansas,
on Catfish Lane, and she hasn’t been
able to walk out to their mailbox.
She’s been suffering
from a bad case of the mulleygrubs.
The cure for the mulleygrubs,
she tells my sister,
is to get up and bake a cake.
If that doesn’t do it, put on a red dress.
–Ginger Andrews (from Hurricane Sisters)
So this Friday before Thanksgiving, think about Aunt Bert and how she’ll celebrate Thanksgiving! And how about YOU?
1. What is your cure for the “mulleygrubs”?
Cooking or baking for others is always a good one for me. So too a trip to a coffeeshop–a large mug full of something strong, a journal, a seat by the window to look out onto the streets of NYC, a favorite pen, a book, and music in my ears. Another too is simply the courage to say You know what, could I please have a hug?
2. Where will you be for Thanksgiving?
In Reñaca Alto, Chile. No Thanksgiving this year–or next, for that matter, now that I think of it…will be in Rome with an international group of rscj. Ah well. Am glad for the memories I do have and the hope for those to come!
3. What foods will be served? Which are traditional for your family?
Greenbean casserole! Break out the crunchy onions! Mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, turkey, and my Great-Grandmother´s orange date bread–and her Bing Cherry Salad–always served on one leaf of iceberg lettuce. Let´s hear it for the midwest and jello salads!
4. How do you feel about Thanksgiving as a holiday?
Love, love, love it. Love the time cooking in the kitchen with friends, love the smell in the house, love the warmth inside on a cool day outside, the gratefulness, the gathering of people who want to be in one another´s company to share a meal. Favorite memories include using a staircase as extra seating while in grad school and playing wordgames in the kitchen afterward while the whole bunch of us cleaned dishes. Also, learning to make cranberry sauce from scratch from a friend in Louisiana…zesting the orange, the port wine heating, the pop of cranberries as they split and offered up their tangy zing. Can´t forget either, the Thanksgiving around a community member who was dying though still awake and alert. Her bed was in the livingroom and we gathered around her to eat…such laughter, such joy…the passing of food, the passing of life, and gratefulness for all.
5. In this season of Thanksgiving, what are you grateful for?
Too much to contain here, to be certain. I am grateful for what I have learned in life so far, for the people I have met and loved along the way, for those who have loved me, for my sisters, my friends, the opportunities I have had to share what I have been given… for so many many things.
BONUS: Describe Aunt Bert’s Thanksgiving.
I can see Aunt Bert remembering that in the bottom drawer of the breakfront where she keeps her dishes, there is the good tablecloth that she has not used for a while. She gets it out, spreads it on the table, and lets the wrinkles settle while she bakes. Then, she thinks about Uncle Frank, lying in his bed, and remembers that somewhere she has a record of music from WWII that they listened to while they were courting. She finds it when she goes to check on the table cloth and looks up to see the photographs of her family on the shelves between books, knickknacks, and some dust that she doesn´t notice anymore. On the edge of a low shelf was a stack of LPs. Finding one that she recognized, she put it on the player and lifted the needle. The dinger rings, she pokes the cake with a knife–clean! And takes out the cake to cool. Meanwhile, she heads to her room–they have had separate rooms now for some time…just easier that way–and finds her red dress, wrapped in plastic from the drycleaner where she took it last Spring–or maybe two seasons ago? It is a little big on her in some places and a little snug in others, but no matter. She slices the cake, puts a piece on a plate and brings the tray to Uncle Frank. Sitting carefully on the edge of his bed, she cuts bites and feeds him one bit at a time, so patiently and carefully. He can hear the music and thinks he might just remember the connection between it and the woman who is offering morsels of warm chocolate cake. Aunt Bert, when Frank has eaten all he can, goes back to the kitchen, pours a glass of milk, cuts another slice or cake, and sits at the table with the now smooth cloth, and watches the snow fall with a smile on her face.