The Genealogy Gals are taking a vacation (from blogging that is). Thanksgiving and Christmas are rapidly approaching and we are both a bit overwhelmed. We will be back in January on our regular weekly schedule, with new and entertaining family stories. Please come back and see us then. If we get inspired by something and can manage a quick post before then we will, but for sure in January. In the meantime please scroll though some of our earlier material. Thanks for reading.
We are alone once more. My daughter and her boyfriend started their 12 hour voyage back to Virginia this morning.
It was a wonderful Thanksgiving spread over 4 days and I am wallowing in nostalgia.
It is a truism, but sometimes the simplest things are the best.
I love to cook and to try new recipes, but there are strict standards for what goes on the Thanksgiving table around here.
So instead of the lovely new appetizers I thought about we had the Helluva Good Onion dip that my son loves and the goat cheese that my daughter loves. Somehow both manage to disappear. Then there is the Waldorf salad my daughter makes every year complete with the carved apple swan and the lovely green salad contributed by a friend. This is followed by my niece’s green bean casserole with the fried onions on top and the pureed sweet potatoes. I snuck in brussel sprouts this year.
Thanks to friends we had heritage breed turkeys this year and a lovely chestnut stuffing.
My sister-in-laws chocolate cake and pumpkin pie were joined by my husband’s apple crisp.
So there were a few new dishes, but mostly the old favorites.
The house could have been cleaner and it would be nice if the roof had actually stopped leaking, but none of that mattered. In the end we had four days of talk and laughter and the satisfaction of the familiar.
I leave you with a poem by Wendell Berry that my sister-in-law passed along.
I tremble with gratitude
for my children and their children
who take pleasure in one another.
At our dinner together, the dead
enter and pass among us
in living love and in memory.
And so the young are taught.
I’m gearing up to host the family dinner for Thanksgiving this week. We are very lucky to have a lot of family not too far away, many of whom continue to want to get together for the holidays. This year we will have 3 out of 5 original Salt children and their spouses and most of their children. Also a cousin of my husband’s and his family, and a couple of sisters of one of my sisters-in-law and their families. Even the college-age family members show up and bring friends. For this I am thankful (and somewhat amazed).
Although I will be serving a fresh turkey, it isn’t one of these.
I am also harried, as I try to organize and clean and count knives and forks, and make sure we have enough tables and chairs, etc. I always feel like others in the family do this more easily than I do (whether this is actually true is another question, but I think they all do). Then I remember that I grew up in a family that was removed geographically from any extended family, and we never had more than my parents and the 5 kids at the table for holidays. Wish I had a picture from then. I can only remember a single Thanksgiving when we had a guest, and that was a business associate of my father’s who was in town and couldn’t get home for the holiday. It was a very big deal.
And on Friday I met my sister for lunch and some walking and talking (which we do well), so I didn’t get any of my preparation tasks done. But I did get to go see the Penacook Town Pound in New Hampshire for myself. Also had a lovely walk on a gorgeous fall day. So I count that as a winning day. Town Pounds are something we discovered in western Massachusetts on one of our trips (I wrote briefly about that here) and I will write a post about in the future.
So the furniture moving and room-rearranging has begun and my house will not feel like itself until after the big day. I have to find a different place to sit to read the paper, my place at the table is relocated for the duration, and I am discombobulated. When I have the tables all in place and set I will take a picture of the result, so I can remember how it looked and what worked to create a single table that would seat 22 people. (I know this is not a huge number and that others do meals for many more. I am just used to doing it for 2 or maybe 4 or 6. So I get overwhelmed.)
It’s hard to complain about a wonderful 2-week vacation and then a Thanksgiving that includes many of our family being here for dinner. But I will. With everything else Life has given me, I haven’t had any time to myself to devote to my
addiction genealogy – not even to cleaning up piles on my desk, let alone to doing any research. And that is really my only complaint. I can’t wait for Black Friday when I have the house to myself and can sit in front of my computer while the dishwasher and laundry run all by themselves.
It’s Saturday afternoon and they’re gone, not the leftovers, the relatives. The leftover turkey will last forever. Have you noticed that every recipe you use to get rid of the turkey actually extends its life? Its like Zeno’s paradox, you’re always using half of what’s left but it’s never quite gone. Eventually it will turn green and I will dump it.
But there are leftovers that will last longer than the turkey. Whenever family and friends are together there is talk. This year the talk remained civil and we’re all still speaking to each other. This is not the case every year, so there’s something else to be thankful for.
What are leftover this year are questions about my parents. I was very close to my parents and have always assumed that I knew everything about them. Wrong! Of course, in some ways we never really know our parents. If we’re lucky, they are the boring people who go to work every day and take care of us. I can see it in my kids eyes, that sense that we never had a different life, one in which we were as crazy and adventurous as they are. That’s all right, normal even, but there are other things that I don’t know about my parents.
At some point this weekend someone asked to see my parents’ wedding pictures. I have no pictures of my parents’ wedding. How is this possible? I have hundreds of pictures of my family including every stage of my parents’ life. The universal response to this lack of photos was, “How can you not have wedding photos, everyone has pictures of their parents’ wedding?” Not me. This always seemed perfectly normal to me, whatever you grow up with as a kid is normal. Not only don’t I have pictures of my parents’ wedding, I don’t know anything about their wedding. Was it at home, at city hall, at a synagogue? Who knows? Not me. What a family historian. I have found their marriage listed in an index of Philadelphia marriages and will certainly send for the certificate, but I fear I will never know the details. There is no scandalous excitement here, no shotgun wedding, no bigamy. I am sure this was just a normal wedding for its time and place, but I am truly sad and surprised that I never asked my mother about her wedding day.
In my quest to find their marriage certificate I was reminded of the fact that my mother had no birth certificate. A few years ago in order to satisfy some bureaucracy or other that my 97-year-old mother was indeed over 65 I was asked to produce a birth certificate. I filled out the forms and checked the box that said I needed the certificate for legal reasons. Just a few days later a very pleasant woman called and informed me that they had no record of my mother’s birth. There was another Henrietta Silver, born a month earlier to parents with different names. Did I want that certificate? Not really. I knew my mother had a social security card, a passport, and a raft of other things that require proof of age, and yet, she had no birth certificate.
I knew that at the end of the holiday I would have more questions than answers, but I never expected to be saying, “My mother, mystery woman.”
Well, we had the family here for Thanksgiving and a good time was had by all. And I noticed (as I do every time family comes to my house, but then I forget again) that the painting of my great great grandfather Zebulon Coffin and the various family pictures that I have on my dining room wall elicited interest and questions. One wall in my dining room is a sort of collage of various family pictures from both my side and my husband’s, some older and some more recent.
Now, like many genealogists, I have found that if I raise the topic and start asking questions about family history people’s eyes glaze over and they back away. However, when they look at the pictures as they sit at the table or wander around waiting for dinner they get interested and ask questions. Some of the questions I can answer and others I can’t (at least not yet). And people even tell stories or talk about what they remember based on the pictures. This year, non-direct family members also asked questions and told their own family stories. It was wonderful! I wish I had been part of each of those conversations, but just knowing that they happened makes me happy.