At Thanksgiving I like to use my grandmother's china with the green and gold design, even though the plates need to be hand-washed. They remind me of her. She would be pleased that I am using them.
We drink water out of my mother's cranberry-glass goblets. How she loved her cranberry glass. We use my Great-Uncle Fred's silver, which was given to him by a neighbor many decades ago. He and his wife Arline never used it because they already had a set. Fred said that he mowed this neighbor's lawn for many years, and that the silverware was a thank-you! This time of year, we also think of my late brother David and his November birthday. Next Thanksgiving, I want to put out a carved wooden box he gave me once.
My sons have birthdays the week of Thanksgiving; Will is nine and Jack is eleven. They never met my mother, Uncle Fred, or my brother David. They attended my grandmother's funeral when Jack was three and Will was one. If Jack remembers her at all, it's as a tiny frail lady with a vague but beautiful smile. I think of her as a strong, opinionated matriarch whose smile you had to earn. Sometimes it was worth it.
For Thanksgiving, we invited friends from the Shenandoah Valley, which is where we lived for eight years and had our children. Kathy and Scott are a conservationist and a photography/ design professor, respectively, both ardent lovers of their adopted landscape. Scott takes pictures of rivers, and Kathy protects the rivers and the land.
They and their children stayed for two days. My father drove down from Montgomery County for the meal. It was a busy place, with four kids running around. Legos everywhere. The fact that our oven was broken didn't ruin the day at all, thanks to generous neighbors. (Thanks, Marcia, Lori, and families!) The oven had died a couple of days earlier, so there was time to beg and plead.
Here is our menu:
--Cocktail: one part Campari, one part pink grapefruit juice, one part cranberry juice cocktail. Adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe.
--White wine with dinner
--Green salad with homemade Roquefort dressing
--Fresh organic turkey, "dry brined" this year. Success!
--Buttermilk mashed potatoes
--Bread stuffing with herbs
--Sauerkraut cooked in a cup and half of gin. Really. I got the idea from Molly Wizenberg. The kids liked it better than brussel sprouts. Don't worry, the alcohol is cooked away, leaving a junipery contrast to the sourness.
--"Eunice's Cranberry Chutney" provided by my friend Kathy
--"Myrna's Pecan Bars," also courtesy of Kathy. Don't you love the names Eunice and Myrna?
--Butternut Squash Spice Pie, instead of the traditional Pumpkin Spice Pie, because we have a huge backlog of squash. It was delicious but the color was drab. No one minded. I whipped some cream to put over top.
After everyone left on Friday, Mr. Dream Kitchen called his parents, Mervin and Marilyn, who have often come for Thankgiving in the past. His mother has had two strokes by now, and it's hard for her to travel. They came when each baby was born; cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, and nurturing all of us so well. We miss their warm presence.
Now the silver and china have been washed and put away. Just now, in the quiet of the empty house, I looked at the bottom of one of the green and gold plates. "Tyndale et Mitchell Co., Philadelphia, Pa.", it reads. Another mark reads "France." I learn that Hector Tyndale, in addition to running the china importing business, was a Union General in the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry. Just before the war, he had personally comforted John Brown's widow upon her husband's hanging. As an officer, he led his regiment in none other than the devastating Shenandoah Valley campaign, for which Grant had commanded, "Make all the Valley a desert."
Tyndale died in Philadelphia in 1880, as an indirect result of battle injuries. And six of his green and gold plates are here, in our cupboard. So beautiful, so old, so resilient, so fragile.