Wednesday, November 25, 2009

circles with no end...

Take a good look at a circle.
Can you tell where it started? Or where it's end is?

No, you can't. At least most of the time.

My view of families gathered for Holiday dinners are like circles.

We sit in a circle.
We pass the food in a circle.

"Always pass the food clockwise, honey." I'd remember my mother telling me as soon as I was old enough to handle the dishes.

Some in our family even talk in circles. I never did understand the endings to Uncle Kenneth's stories.

But the best circle story is actually the circle itself...

I have very fond memories of my grandparents farm. My mother grew up there. I spent many summers there with Grandpap and Grandmaw. It was a working farm; cows, chickens, sheep, horses and goats. I learned from them to wake early and get things done. Grandpa and I would concoct a mean chicken feed and make the rounds on the farm welcoming with each step the light of day. Grandma would rise, stoke the pot bellied stove and head to the kitchen.

When we finished our morning chores, we would start back towards the old house. Our noses would eagerly lead the way following the wonderful smell of fresh baked biscuits. We'd bring in the eggs we'd just gathered and Grandma would fry up a few for our hungry bellies.

The kitchen was large and open, the heart of the home. A big cast iron wood burning stove, sink with hand pump by the window. A huge expandable table that could hold the whole family held it's place by the door. The pie pantry held the goodies of the days bounty protected by it's doors and vented tin. The big butcher block table was well worn from years of cooking. That was Grandma's spot, between the pie pantry and butcher block, with her comfy chair nearby for rests.

I now have in my possession the butcher block and pie pantry. They are a couple of my favorite pieces of furniture. I can rub the block and almost feel the flour and hear the squeak of her wooden rolling pin.

One of my fondest memories is coming into the kitchen with grandmother making her famous mashed potatoes. She made the best mashed potatoes...ever.

No electric mixer to do the work. She mashed those suckers by hand with one of those zigzag kitchen mashing tools. Not only could she make delicious spuds, but all of her cooking was simple, yet amazing.

What holds me now even more in awe is that she cooked everything on a woodburning stove. Heavy iron handles lifted the grates off the cook top, she'd stuff a split log in, stoke the fire a bit and determine if the top or oven was now the correct temperature. Can you imagine?

Cakes, biscuits and pies all cooked precisely with no precision. No digital display. No push button technology to turn the oven on or off at intervals. No convection circulation for pastries to be cooked evenly. Just a log. And an iron. And Grandma.

Grandpa used to say that Grandma cooked the best 'fud'. That's what he called it...'fud'. When it was mealtime, Grandma used to open the door from the kitchen, stick her head out into the courtyard where the chickens were pecking bare spots on the ground and yell..."Harley!". It came out more elongated like "Haaaarrrrrllllllleyyyyyyyyy!" going up on the end like in a pig calling contest.

I'll never forget the sound. Or the way Grandma smelled of freshly baked bread.

It seemed to me a simpler life. Simpler times. Yet harder in many respects than the one I lead today.

We lost Grandma back in '77. Grandpa in '83. But every year at Thanksgiving my mind wanders back to the large meals that we would share in the kitchen down on the farm. The table heavily laden with food. As I think about it now, there was alot of preparation that would go into such a meal. No processed foods. No prepackaged ingredients. Everything was made by hand, from scratch. We ate the turkey that Grandpa raised, the potatoes that they grew, the cranberries that we picked.

It makes me appreciate the things that I have now. My digital convection oven with all it's bells and whistles. All of my Kitchen-Aid appliances. When I look at them, I think of the farm. And appreciate all that my Grandparents did.

Each year at dinner I thank both Grandma and Grandpa for my wonderful Holiday memories; Thanksgiving in particular. I give thanks for all of my loved ones that are no longer with us. Sadly, this year I've had to add my mother to the list.

Thanksgiving will have once again changed. Slightly.

My Grandmother taught her daughter, my mother, all of her cooking skills. She too, at least in my humble opinion, made the best mashed potatoes. An even better improved version of Grandma's. And then my mother in turn passed on that speciality to me.

My own daughter told me just the other night, "Can you make your wonderful mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner?"

"Sure, honey. But don't you want sweet potatoes instead?"

"No, Mommy. Your mashed potatoes are the best....ever."

I had to stop for a moment, and catch my breath. It seemed as if I'd been here before.
But I was the ten year old looking up at my mother, not the mom.

At one time it had been my mother saying those same words to her mom when she was but ten.
The circle.
The family circle.

Do you know where it starts? And where it ends?
It's continuous...

and I'm Thankful for that.


I hope that everyone has a wonderful, Happy Thanksgiving! And that you too, have memories that you are thankful for...


  1. Nice post, I know all about the circles!

    Have a happy turkey day!!

  2. It's so touching, I love the story..
    I love everything in it's original way. But I can't left this simple life ether. ^-^

    Happy Thanks Giving!


  3. What a great post. Well said. It brought back a lot of memories.

  4. Your words brought your grandparents and their farm alive for me. Excellent writing, excellent subject matter. Great post!

    Happy Thanksgiving (feels weird saying that, me being a Canadian and our Turkey Day over a month ago now, but..when in Rome!!)

  5. lovely post Nancy. Have a wonderful holiday!

  6. made me cry :) In a good way. It's such a shame we don't do something like Thanksgiving over here (ungrateful nation that we are) as I feel that you've captured what beauty it could bring...let's hope we can put that spirit back into other "holidays"....I just loved reading about your experience at the farm....loved it, thank you for sharing.

  7. What wonderful memories! And now you can pass the tradition of the best mashed potatoes (ever!) on to your daughter.

    Thank you for sharing your memories with us!

  8. Still wiping the tears away...beautiful. Thanks.

  9. Such wonderful memories you have!!You are very lucky!! More memories will be made with your daughter!!

  10. what a great post.

    thanks for sharing.

  11. Man, I have tears in my eyes. Great post. You really know what to be thankful for, and I admire that.

  12. Have a beautiful celebration......


  13. Beautiful post - beautiful memories.

    :) My grandmother made the best gravy ...ever.

    She taught me when I was about 7 years old how she did it. Happy Thanksgiving!! :)

  14. Ah... let me just wipe that tear from the corner of my eye... nah, you know what? I'll let it stay there! Happy Thanksgiving, Nancy - my bloggy family!


  15. Your posts are always like a big warm sweatshirt to me. The kind that is a size or two too big, which is perfect because then you can hide your hands just inside the cuffs which always gives a sense of security and coziness. Thanks, as always for sharing, and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  16. Wonderful post!
    And a Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! =)

  17. thanks Nancy. I love your story of thanksgiving, memories and your heritage. We don't celebrate thaksgiving in Aussieland, non-the-less I am pausing to count my blessings.

  18. With a lump (not from potatoes) in my throat and a smile on my face, you've painted a beautiful portrait of your wonderful family. And how fantastic that the circle continues with your own daughter and you.

    And now I have the Lion King's "Circle of Life" song in my head - heehee.
    Have a Very Happy Thanksgiving, Nancy! My Best, Bonnie

  19. Thanks for making me cry... now it's back to the cornbread.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  20. That mother-daughter thing is just amazing. Complex sometimes, but the reason why the world goes around. We don't have Thanksgiving here in the UK but I wish you a very happy one.

  21. This is really sweet. Brought tears to my eyes at the end. :o) Happy Thanksgiving!

  22. Shame on you, making everyone cry. Beautiful post.

  23. What a wonderful description of the circle of life. It was a tribute to you, and to your mother. Thank you for bringing the past and future together with such grace. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, Nancy.

  24. Very nice post! I think our grandparents were cut from the same cloth. I too remember life on the farm and the biscuits made in a wood burning oven. Ahhh...the simplicity of it all. I would love to come full circle and get back to those simpler times.

    Thanks for this. Happy Thanksgiving!

  25. Every child should spend some time on a farm - if only to connect with where the Thanksgiving food comes from!

    Thank-you for the cozy scenes you painted for us with your 'pen'.

    Happy Thanksgiving from Canada.

  26. This is so sad and sweet. You have touched my heart today. Happy thanksgiving Nancy!

  27. Beautiful memories. I'm ready for some of those mashed potatoes and would love anything veggie cooked in that woodburning stove!

  28. Hi Nancy, I appreciated this entry a lot. I'm lucky that the same family I had as a kid are the same people around me now, and for that I am greatful. But there are some absent friends whose loss still hurts. I miss them. I am not a man of faith, but I am with you in spirit. Indigo

  29. I love this post Nancy along with the fact that I was nodding along the way remembering how things used to be at my grandparents farm. A simpler life because they made due with what they had. Really makes us stop and think of what is truly important in our lives. I loved that old wood stove ~ ours had a water tank and the dipper is still down at the farm. I must snag that old enamel dipper next summer!
    Hope you had a good Thanksgiving and some yummy mashed potatoes!

  30. I am running round to all my fellow American chums wishing them a belated Happy Thanksgiving.

    I hope you had a wonderful day yesterday Nancy. You summed the day up beautifully for anyone (Me) who doesn't experience the day.

    Raising a glass to you.

  31. beautiful post...lots of great memories

  32. I absolutely ADORE this post, Nancy! I learned to bake on the neighbor's woodburning stove, back in rural Iowa. And I loved going to my grandma & grandpa's for Thanksgiving. The best part was the stories people told around the table (when they were done stuffing themselves!)

  33. I'm quite sure I was born in the wrong century, or at least the wrong decade. Sigh. Happy Thanksgiving, Nancy.

  34. And yet, another gorgeous post, Nancy!

    I could actually FEEL your memories in my heart.

    I can rub the block and almost feel the flour and hear the squeak of her wooden rolling pin.

    I LOVED your analogy of the circle because I never thought of it that way, but you're so right on!

    She mashed those suckers by hand with one of those zigzag kitchen mashing tools.

    I smiled at this because one of my fondest memories of my mother's mother is when I would watch her mash potato's in the exact same way.

    Thanks for the memory!

    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day, my friend!

  35. Such memories! I remember my grammie having the wood burning stove and the pump sink, even still an outhouse. The day grampie put in the the city water sink, I never saw my grammie so confused! Like we are today trying to figure out new gadgets. Hilarious moment!

  36. Great post~
    And you make me cry....Actually can not stop crying now. Thanks for reminding me that I should appreciate everything I took for granted. I have to cherish the happiness I have now. Have a wonderful weekend!

  37. Kind of scary, isn't it? I mean, when did I stop being the "kid"? I clearly remember when my dad was the age that I am now. Seems way different.

    Great post, Nancy.

  38. Nancy
    I want to tell you that this post really put things into perspective for me. I have forgotten so much, and ignored some of the rest.

    Thank you.

  39. What a beautiful, beautiful post. It brought tears to my eyes. Reminded me a lot of my family (as far as large, and home baked items, and passed down recipes). My grandmother died when I was about 10; I don't remember too much about her. But my mother made great mashed potatoes and so do I. My kids, now grown, love them.

    Happy Belated Thanksgiving.

  40. I too was raised with a grandmaw (Nanny as I call her) that cooked from scratch and used a wood burning stove. She was as magnificent as her cooking. This was my first Thanksgiving without my Nanny. As hard as it was...I too am grateful for the memories she left behind. My circle began with my Nanny and I believe it will end when I see her again...and then another circle that never ends will begin. Thank you for the post. It made my heart happy.

  41. What an awesome post. I have so many happy memories of holidays with my family, and of my childhood growing up. Time seemed to go by so slowly back then, but all of a sudden, I woke up one day and was an adult. My mom and dad made everything look so easy. Every once in a while, though, I'll catch myself doing something that they used to do all the time, and I'll just smile to myself.

    Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving!

  42. How lucky you are to have these amazing memories of your grandparents! And how lucky your daughter is that you treasure them, and are passing on these traditions.
    As always, a lovely post...

  43. Lovely story. Thank you for sharing. I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving. Being from Canada, we enjoyed our turkey day last month.

  44. Wow! your blog post made me all emotional. And I agree, Grandparents are *THE* best!
    It must have been a dejavu to see your daughter saying that to you!

    Nice article!
    Happy (belated) Thanksgiving!

  45. What a great, heartwarming post.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Happy Belated Thankdgiving.

  46. I'm here catching up on my blog reading. Happy Sunday!

  47. Aw, Nancy!

    This post made me weep, dammit! Just beautiful....what wonderful memories you have....and what a wonderful legacy to pass on to your own daughter.

    Wishing you and yours a wonderful, peaceful holiday.

  48. Hands down, that was the best Thanksgiving post I've read. Wow. You are so lucky to have such a strong line of women in your family, and to continue the circle with your own daughter. I loved reading about your grandmother, and thinking about what all our grandmothers and their mothers and women far back accomplished. It gives me the spirit to do my best, to be a strong link the circle's chain.

  49. Well put, my friend. Appears we may have been raised in the same circles, right down to the farm, the large dinners surrounded by handsome uncles and laughing aunts...


  50. This made my morning, and Ive included you in my post for today (hope you dont mind!) I love good memories

  51. I'm catching up on reading today. Was off for a week, not really because of the holiday but because of a sudden, painful loss. These words brought me a little closer on the path of healing. Thank you.

  52. Where would I be without those strong, nurturing women in my life? Thank you for reminding me. Beautiful post. Thank you.

  53. seriously wonderful thoughts...circles, families, thankfulness. beautiful. but now i'd like some mashed potatoes...


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