My Post-Thanksgiving Assignment

Putting Up the Tree


Not Until December

I’m from the good old days – back when Christmas was not the Great Red & Green Retail Hope, forced down the throat of every shopper all year long.  There really were only about Twelve (Appropriate) Days of Christmas.  In fact, I remember when putting up Christmas decorations in the first week of December was considered pushing the season and people had them down by the first Monday after the 25th.

I kept a pretty close eye on the retail end of Christmas, because both my parents had jobs in the business.  Mom more than Dad, because Dad’s retail establishment was part of the Veterans Administration’s Hospitals, while Mom worked for a major department store, but both of them benefited from buying marked-down Christmas merchandise.  What my mom went through, as Christmas grew into the phenomena it is today, could not be called a benefit.

However, as Christmas grew in retail importance out in the world, my family kept it in perspective at our house.  While Mom might find prospective Christmas presents on sale at any time during the year and arrangements for Christmas were usually hammered out via phone or letter by mid-October, not a single decoration went up before the first weekend in December.  Well, at least not until 1973.

Home for Thanksgiving

In the Fall of 1973 I went away to college.  I didn’t go away far, just to Nacogdoches TX, but my absence rocked my mom’s world.  I had noticed in her letters and on our phone calls (few and far between, because long distance was expensive), but if I had missed it there, I would have realized it the minute I arrived home for Thanksgiving.

As soon as I made it home from SFA, I was informed I would be putting up the Christmas tree while I was home.  In fact, Mom didn’t see why I didn’t go ahead and get all the decorations out of the garage and start immediately.  I balked!  I wasn’t going to allow Christmas to start until Thanksgiving was over.

So, Thanksgiving morning I awoke to the smell of the turkey in the oven and up until the meal was over everything seemed normal.  However, as soon as the last crumb of pecan pie was consumed, Mom said she and my sister would clean up the dishes, while Dad got the decorations out of the garage and I got the tree set up.

The Queen of Christmas Reigns

I’ll be honest with you.  I wasn’t all that thrilled with this idea, but my mom was not one of those people you could ignore.  You might get her to postpone her plans, as in acquiescing when I balked at putting the tree up before Thanksgiving dinner, but while she would allow delay, defiance was not an option.

So, the box with the tree, which had already been pulled down off its shelf and was staged by the kitchen door, was brought into the living room.  I began assembling the tree and stringing the lights.  As Mom and my sister cleaned up the dishes, Dad carried in box, after box, after box, after…well, you get the picture…of lights, decorations and gift wrapping paraphernalia.

By the time all the leftovers were stowed away, all the dishes were washed and dried, and the silver had all been counted and put back in the flannel-lined case, the tree was up and lighted.  I was still pretty unhappy with being assigned the task so early.  Intellectually I realized that I wouldn’t be back again in time to set it up, but I wasn’t emotionally ready to deal with Christmas until after the first of December.

Then Mom and my sister joined me and began unpacking decorations to go on the freshly lighted tree.  Dad turned off the TV and put a stack of Christmas albums on the stereo.  Mom began the annual recital of Christmas history.

  • Oh look, I can’t believe this ornament made it another year.  Your Dad and I bought it for our first Christmas tree.
  • Do you remember the aluminum tree we had in Dublin?  I bought all these red balls especially for it.
  • Jane, I know you prefer a live tree, but do you remember the year Susan was allergic to the tree and couldn’t even open her eyes on Christmas morning?
  • Do you girls remember the huge flocked tree we got when we lived on Rupley?  It barely fit in the front room.

Every ornament that came out of the boxes had its own story, stories that I loved.  Even though I had determined to be pouty and indignant throughout the entire process, it didn’t take to many do-you-remembers to jiggle me out of my ennui.  Before I realized it, I was the one reciting the Christmas memories.  I began to sing along with the Christmas carols on the stereo and soon we were all having a mid-afternoon hot cocoa break.



Feasts on Frankoma Ware


Happy Holidays?

Christmas lights have been going up in my current neighborhood since Halloween.  Christmas decor has been available at the hobby stores since Spring.  I’ll confess they’ve already worn me out.  I’ll be doing my own decorating today, but not with the joy the task used to bring.

Autumn is my favorite season and it used to get its fair share of attention.  The bright colors of fallen leaves, chrysanthemums, marigolds and pansies reigned over September, October and November.  Instead of Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving marked the day the Christmas decorations blossomed.  I miss it more than I can say.

Thanksgiving at the Caves

Mom was big on decorating.  Every season got its due.  For Thanksgiving she liked to make elaborate decorations on Styrofoam platforms with cornucopia, fake fruit and colorful leaves.  I particularly remember a set of candles she had, a pair of pilgrims and a colorful turkey.

Most people I know have their holiday dinners in the late afternoon or early evening.  That wasn’t the case at the Cave household.  We had our big meal at lunchtime.  I can’t even tell you why we did it that way.  It was just our tradition.  Perhaps it was a holdover from our farming heritage.  A huge meal midday and leftovers for the late evening.

Our Thanksgiving dinner was one of the few meals we ate in the dining room.  Mom would begin setting the table days in advance.  The spotless white linen tablecloth, gleaming silver flatware, colorful place mats, festive napkin rings surrounding crisp napkins – it was all very Southern Living Magazine.

And the Frankoma Ware

My mom loved dishes.  For everyday use we had an odd assortment of tacky plates gathered from a variety of sources.  Some were leftovers from a time they changed the china at Dad’s work.  He rescued the white plates with their rings of burgundy and black, because he said they held the heat of the food better than our other plates.  (Mom hated them, by the way, and secretly rejoiced whenever one broke.)  I can’t even tell you where the rest came from.  They were just everyday plates you set out with the jelly jar glasses for homemade meals.

But on most special occasions Mom pulled out the Frankoma Ware.  She had a set of Christmas China and a very formal set of fine porcelain, but those were saved for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, or maybe a birthday if you were lucky and in her very good graces.  For everything else, from Sunday dinner to Thanksgiving, you got Frankoma Ware.

Mom’s collection of Frankoma Ware was impressive.  You name it, she had it, from the Wagon Wheel Sugar and Creamer to every imaginable shape and size of serving dish.  We even had individual side plates especially for corn on the cob!  On Thanksgiving it all came out, even the tumblers.

Now the tumblers were a bone of contention.  Dad loved his iced tea and had a huge glass of it at dinner and lunch.  He was very particular about what it was served in.  He didn’t want any of that plastic stuff and the glass needed to be clear so he could see that the tea was the right strength.  He liked to watch the sugar melt as he stirred.

The Frankoma Ware tumblers were not see through and they were probably a third of the size of his usual tea glass.  He made his displeasure known in an assortment on non-verbal passive-aggressive methods, including multiple trips to the kitchen for refills.  Each refill required an elaborate stirring and tasting ritual, not required with his usual iced tea glasses.

The Usual Schedule

The turkey went into the oven in the wee hours of the night to be ready for the mid-day meal.  By breakfast time, the giblet gravy was on the boil and  cornbread dressing in a large pyrex baking dish was ready for the oven.  Yes, we had green bean casserole, but the funniest thing to me was the relish dish.  Each holiday Mom used a huge sectioned platter to create a crudites extravaganza – celery sticks, tomato slices, pickles, olives and more, spread out in a glorious array – and after each meal, it looked just like it did at the beginning of the meal.

As the baking and cooking progressed, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade offered entertainment in the den.  Dad held court from his recliner.  The females rotated in and out according to what was being prepared at any given time.  The second the parade was over, dinner was served.

I had a delightful Thanksgiving dinner with some of my husband’s relatives this year, but it is always a bittersweet day.  Regardless of the quality, quantity or elegance of the repast,  all I really want is cornbread dressing made with the Mobley recipe and a few olives from Mom’s relish dish.  I had no idea of the value of those days when I lived through them.  In fact, if asked I would have probably complained of mediocre food and boring conversation.  How blind we can be!

Ruth and George are gone, so their house will be empty during this holiday season.  I hope,  even now, someone is planning to come to our Open House on Sunday and they will fall in love with 10935 Carissa.  The home has been completely renovated and is waiting to help another family make unforgettable holiday memories.