Nov 24 2022
There is nothing so clarifying, as polishing a silver water pitcher, like the one I was holding in my hand. I had no silver polish but I had discovered Ajax works equally as well and with the sponge and some water, I scrubbed, and watched the dull dark tarnish magically seem to work its way off, to reveal the gleaming silver underneath.
The immediacy of the results, and the feel of the warm water splashing on my hands as I rinsed and scrubbed, made the experience so concrete, and important.
It made me go, in my mind, back in time, in my house on old 704 park avenue, in the kitchen, polishing the silverware we would be using for thanksgiving dinner. There would be a lot of people in our family coming for dinner, Hubert and Helen, Emily and Morris, and their two kids Bond and Jill, Aunt Elizabeth and Aunt Bertie and Uncle Elmer. And of course the seven of us, my mom and dad and the five girls.
I can see the silver fork in my hand. I can picture the velvet lined box in the dining room buffet where it is always kept for safekeeping. The silver was only brought out for special occasions like this family thanksgiving, and it was often my job to polish the silver with the silver polish, that came in the white and blue striped tin bottle, and the little white rag I used for polishing. I can remember the design on the bottom of the fork and how much harder it was to polish the design-work on the bottom.
As I finish polishing the silver water pitcher, back in the moment, I notice, in my own home, that the rain on the window has started. The rain was predicted for this day and as I stared at the windowpane, I flashed back again in time, and this time I was on the ladder outside the rippling old windows with my sponge, and some vinegar water, and some newspaper to clean the windows outside.
My mom used to say that when we had family celebrations she wanted “the house to sparkle”. The wind was cold outside, and the leaves blew from the big huge oak tree in the side yard that was full of ivy, but I liked being outside and I did not ever mind doing the windows for a chore. We only cleaned the windows on the first floor and even those were high up and required a ladder. I can see that ripply window as clear as day, in my minds eye, like it was just yesterday, with all its individual panes.
I turned from the window and, in my own home, put on my ipod classic, to the classical music that was still stored on it in a playlist. I smiled and listened to the beautiful music start playing. My mom to this day also still loves classical music and listens to it on WCPE radio in North Carolina. But when we were growing up, she would play classical composers on our old stereo record player in the family room. That stereo lasted for years and years.
As the music is playing and the smell of turkey is wafting from my oven, I turn to take out the mandarin orange salad out from the fridge and in a flash, again the past is right here, and I can see my older sister Heidi sitting at the white ceramic topped table in the kitchen, in front of the window. She has a large bowl and a serrated knife and is slicing oranges into the bowl deftly, taking care to keep all the juice in the bowl as well. She has grated fresh coconut and cherries as well for the large dish of Ambrosia she is preparing.
I can see her chatting with mom, who has on an apron and is surrounded by steam as she opens the oven to check on the turkey, but who is responding to my sister and others coming in and out of the room with the composure of an orchestra director. My mom is like the most incredible multitasker I have ever seen. She has one of my sisters sweeping the leaves off the front porch and steps, she has another sister setting the table with the polished silverware and the green linen napkins. She has another of my sisters talking to our guests keeping them entertained.
As I mentally walk into the dining room from days gone by, the bay window catches my eye, and in the window are several boughs of magnolia leaves which my mom has sprayed and wiped with oil so they will gleam. In the center of the magnolia leaves, is a Mexican Madonna, that my sisters and I bought for my mom when we went and visited my cousins in Brownsville, and they took us into Matamores, Mexico.
The Madonna is green and white and gold, and is made of paper mache and she has a wire frame on her back for holding multiple little candles. My mom has always put her in this window, adorned with beautiful green leaves.
Such a special time, with so many wonderful and dearly loved people, who were celebrated and much appreciated by my mom, my dad, and our family on these holidays. My dad is smiling, he has just come up the stairs from the basement where he shoveled coal into the furnace so the house will stay toasty warm. The radiators in my bedroom are covered with socks so that when I put them on, my feet are warm.
I was just a little girl, in this memory, but even as a child I recognized how hard my mom worked to show how much she appreciated our family and our blessings. I can see our table, a bounteous feast, with homemade pepperidge farm stuffing, mixed with celery and onions and butter, and cream cheese stuffed celery, and spiced peaches, home made ambrosia, cranberry sauce, and a congealed red salad with nuts and sour cream in layers in the inside. My mouth is watering.
My mom prepared a delicious homemade asparagus casserole, with sliced eggs and almonds and cheese, and home made mashed potatoes with whipping cream and butter. There was sweet potato casserole with butter and pecans, and green bean casserole, and Lesuer new peas from the silver can. There was turkey and gravy and rolls with soft butter and sweet ice tea.
It was a feast indeed. Everything about it was a celebration of gratitude, and family. I can see my dad and mom beaming as we sit down to eat, and those who would not fit at the big twelve person table, are sitting nearby at the card tables set up, but I am being treated to the big table, like a grown up with my older sister Heidi and I feel excited to be there.
I look up from my mental reverie, at my own dishes set up with silver and linen, and pop a deviled egg in my mouth to stave off the hunger, and then pick off a pinch of the delicious homemade coffee cake my sister sent me earlier in the mail. I see little heads bobbing outside my glass back door, and some of my family is coming here today for our own thanksgiving meal.
We got up early to give thanks at church, and now we could settle into the vintage ladder-back chairs that belonged to my husbands mother, and feast on our harvest style table. The little kids are so excited to be drinking out of real gold glasses and to be sitting at the table with the grown ups, just like I was excited back in the day.
I am just so happy to be here, in this moment, holding on to all the good memories of the past celebrations, and bringing it forward, ( that idea of joy, thankfulness, celebration and anticipation) into the present. The polishing, the cooking, the planning and the cleaning is all part of the gratitude expressed to family and friends, we expressed in the past, and still find it worthwhile to do today.
It is, down to the last detail, and tradition, so perfect and so dear to me. I am so grateful for these these gifts of moments in time, that to me, still give concrete evidence of the beauty of family, and the bounty we have been blessed with. I am so very grateful.