Fifty years ago, at the old house on Chute Road, it was almost Thanksgiving. It was also hunting season, which took priority over holidays.

If there was deer meat (we never called it venison) in the freezer, Thanksgiving dinner would be served around noon. If there was no deer yet, Father would have gone hunting and dinner would wait until he came out of the woods at dusk. After he put away the gun, got out of the wet clothes and took his place at the head of the table, the dishes full of hot food would be brought to the table. Six children, trying to be quiet, anxiously waited.

We did not usually get to hear the adventures of the day he had spent looking for a deer. Back then, a hunter did not have to go miles away, as there were a lot more woods in Windham then and a lot less people. If he had gone hunting over by Canada Hill, up in the woods off the fire tower or on the pole line, we all knew where those places were in Windham. Like a good hunter, he always said where he planned to hunt.

My memories of Thanksgiving are tied up with memories of what November was like in a typical Maine country home: Most of the men off hunting, the house warm from the wood stove and a little snow on the ground, the wet clothes hung out to dry frozen on the clothesline.

I hope all other seniors reading this will take a while this Thanksgiving and start writing their memories in a journal, or get one of those wonderful electronic devices to record what the holiday used to be like. Who knows? Maybe next year, I will have no memory of what it was like – that’s why I write about those days.

There are always special food dishes associated with holidays. It’s common today to think “green bean casserole” at Thanksgiving, but this is a relatively new dish. Fifty years ago at my Maine home in the country, there were other specialties on the Kelley table. Boiled onions in a cream sauce was something my father loved and so my mother created it every Thanksgiving, along with pickled beets and a variety of pickles – all homemade.

I am not sure where she got the tiny onions to prepare, but most all the food came from our garden. Mashed and whipped potato, bright yellow squash, string beans and/or peas and stuffing made from scratch and seasoned with Bell’s sage-filled poultry seasoning. A large cookie sheet filled with “raised” rolls, fresh from the oven, made room to put in a couple of pies – usually apple and pumpkin. Already on the sideboard were lemon meringue and if I had come home to visit, she would make a chocolate cream pie.

My sisters and I took turns washing dishes when we were young, but on Thanksgiving, we sometimes all worked on this chore together. Mom would make a fresh pot of coffee and sit and rest for a few minutes, and Dad would read the newspaper – or if it was the end of a long day of walking the woods looking for a deer, he’d more likely retire for the night. Friday was a work day. And before someone asks about watching the football game, we didn’t follow football. We didn’t have a television set.

We did have the outdoors. That was good enough.

Kay Soldier welcomes reader ideas for column topics of interest to seniors. She can be reached by email at [email protected], or write to 114 Tandberg Trail, Windham, ME 04062.

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