Thanksgiving at Aunt Carrie’s
We all have a favored aunt. I do. She was my father’s youngest sister and had invited me to be her flower girl when she married in 1958, just days after my own fifth birthday. Her wedding is one of my first memories of wanting to be included, finding myself different, and then finding that being different didn’t matter so much. She somehow made me feel special anyway.
You see, my flower girl dress was much longer than my cousins’ dresses and even at that age, I felt some great need to look like the crowd. My mother, in an attempt to help me be modest, had hemmed my dress a full four inches below the knees while Lucy’s, Susan’s, and Lucile’s dresses were all a sassy two inches above the knees. My cousins and I sang for the bride and groom, but I don’t remember much about that part of the reception. I just remember being embarrassed about that long hem.
However, all through that difficult night, my Aunt Carrie didn’t say a word of disparagement at my obvious difference. She just smiled and cooed and smiled some more. She probably wouldn’t have noticed anyway, her husband was so kind and handsome, and her missionary brother called in the middle of the reception all the way from New Zealand, but nevertheless, it was on this night that I took Aunt Carrie as my own favored aunt.
When I grew older, Aunt Carrie built an A-line home, the kind with a loft, large windows, and a sharp angular roof. The home was new when we went there for my first remembered Thanksgiving at her home and she was anxious to show off the special, organized systems to make living easier. As my aunts toured her home and listened to her explanations, I was allowed to come along and treated like one of the grownups. I was in awe. She continued to grow in favor in my eyes.
The dirty laundry in her master bedroom went into drawers that also opened on the other side of the wall in her laundry room. I had never seen such a creative approach and listened carefully. I remembered that she smiled at me and let me try out the drawers for myself.
The stairs to the loft were planked and carpeted so you could see through them into the back part of the house, thus allowing light to wander at will beyond the usual confinement of a stairwell and making them very easy to vacuum. I believe this was my first encounter with home organization principles being put into practice and I was enthralled.
I thought her a princess, especially because she had a wonderful unfinished basement with no rules about playing except to clean up when we were done. She had found numerous chests of drawers at thrift shops and used them to store her many projects and decorations in that twilight area. They were of assorted colors and sizes and thus helped my imagination work wonders about castles, princes, and decorating my own hamlet some day.
One particularly difficult Thanksgiving, I was suffering with over-excitement that led to a terrible childhood headache. She let me lay in her guest bedroom, right on top of the quilted bedspread in the middle of the oversized bed, then shut the curtains tightly, and encouraged me to lie very still until the pain left. The smells of turkey and duck (my uncle was a sharp shooter with a special eye for Thanksgiving meat) eventually drifted into the bedroom. I slept and then enjoyed the meal reassured that all was well because my head was no longer throbbing.
Aunt Carrie let me climb into her loft without restraint and read the books I found there without interruption. It was like heaven to me to be without responsibilities, chores, or social obligations. It was a rare occurrence because as the oldest of eight children, such luxurious quiet was not often found in my own home. I remembered the room as being pale green, the pillows soft, and the books absorbing.
As I grew older, Thanksgiving at Aunt Carrie’s took on a different shape. The basement no longer held interest for me and the loft seemed too full of youngsters. But Aunt Carrie was still one step ahead of me. It was a calm day, not yet cold nor damp from the rains. After our meal together, she suggested I take two clear glass vases she had stashed away just for this special occasion and see what wild weeds I might find along the road that would be suitable for dried flower arrangements. And so I wandered, gathered, arranged, and returned. Aunt Carrie was most encouraging and thus began my passion for floral arranging which has lasted to this day, many decades later.
When I married, I no longer found myself at Aunt Carrie’s for Thanksgiving. My life path led me to many other places for pumpkin pie. I have had this significant meal in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Jose, and now again in Utah. Even if I could, I doubt Aunt Carrie would have me for Thanksgiving for she now has a numerous posterity and I have extended family my own to feed.
But when she could, and as she could, on those special Thanksgiving days, Aunt Carrie created memories for me that have never left. She treated me kindly as a child, seemed to understand my need for increased self-esteem during cumbersome teenage years, and nurtured the seeds of organization and floristry in me as I matured. Aunt Carrie gave me so many non-tangible gifts year after year during my Thanksgiving holidays at her home.
I believe this upcoming Thanksgiving, there might one or two young people in the company that you will keep that could use this same kind of encouragement. They need you to tell them they look handsome or attractive. They need you to inquire after their passions and closely held dreams. They need to be needed by you.
I believe we can do great good by giving of ourselves just a bit more and thus have another be ever so grateful (in future years) that we took the time and trouble to care about them on Thanksgivings long ago.