Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pilgrim's Progress

This card, postmarked Midland, S. Dak., Nov. 22, 1915, was sent to my grandmother, Jessie, by her best friend (and niece although actually a year older than Jessie), Ida (Brown) Rogers. The weather had been fine and mild out in the middle of South Dakota during November, Ida reported, but she'd been cooking daily for the six men involved in hauling hay on the Rogers farm/ranch.

I pulled out the family postcard album the other day --- a nicely-bound but battered scrapbook-size repository dating from about 1900 --- to look for Thanksgiving cards. And there were a couple tucked in among the Christmas, birthday and general greetings. But not many. That’s one of the beauties of Thanksgiving --- it isn’t Christmas. More relaxed (unless you’re the cook, but even the cooking end of it can be fun), certainly less commericial.

We had a church full at St. Andrew’s last evening for the Interchurch Council’s annual Thanksgiving service, which I think everyone who attended enjoyed. This year’s preacher was from the Community of Christ --- a lovely and low-key sermon. It’s always fun to watch the pastors from various denominations in action --- two had their preacher yells (do they teach that in seminary?) down pat; the others, more conversational. We chained our vicar to the organ since the regular organist was not available, a good reminder of the need to have a conversation about volume one of these days. With both “pipes” and “console” switched on, it is possible to blast those toward the back of our small church clean over into the next county if one isn’t careful with the foot on that particular pedal.

Some time was spent beforehand fussing about coming up with enough to feed the minor multitude afterwards. But have you ever noticed that any event in a church involving food turns into a loaves and fishes experience? As it turned out, we were at the epicenter of a cookie explosion with plenty left over. Gratifyingly, few of the blonde brownies or cinnamon streusel slices I spent part of Tuesday morning slaving over a hot stove to produce were left. Hardly enough to get a sugar high on today.

The Interchurch Council’s primary project is the Ministry Center where the community food pantry is located and various counseling services headquartered. Tuesday night’s collection, however, went to the council’s fuel fund --- intended to help those who have difficulty keeping up with heating bills during the winter (and it does get cold in Iowa in the deep midwinter).

Lots of other good stuff is going on elsewhere Chariton this Thanksgiving, too. If you’re in need of Thanksgiving dinner (or just others to share it with), First United Methodist, our biggest congregation, will be serving up one free on Thursday. The Assembly of God church, located next door to Autumn Park apartments, served an early holiday dinner to residents there Tuesday night as well. First Methodist, by the way, also serves free meals during the last week of every month --- a project designed to assist those on fixed incomes whose resources are running low as the months end. So we’re especially grateful for Methodists around here.

A cousin I can't identify (frustratingly) sent this card, postmarked Nov. 24, 1919, to Grandmother Jessie from Traverse, Minn. It's a little battered, but keep in mind that this postcard album was given to sick-abed children way back in the dark (pre-television) age to keep them amused.

Advent begins as Thanksgiving ends. The wreath (a big oak wheel atop a big oak stand) will have to be hauled out Friday and prepared for the approaching season of expectant waiting. Since the wreath requires candles of a size not easily findable in appropriate colors (three purple, one pink --- or rose), there’s a minor problem. We’ve solved it in the past with symbolic ribbon, but a parishioner who is a retired florist suggested spray paint last week. Hmm.

Thanksgiving, for better or worse, also marks the start of the season of extravagant spending, but that’s not especially threatening down here. So I’m looking forward to Friday night’s lighted Christmas parade around the square (starting at 7).

This is the only nighttime event I know of for the Chariton Volunteer Fire Department’s 1883 Silsby Steamer --- hitched to a team, fired up and paraded around the square spouting steam and throwing sparks. It’s a sight worth a trip up town for and the weather forecast is looking good.

The Hunter Tree Farm is open --- including Alyse’s wonderful Christmas shop in the old May schoolhouse, so it’s going to start looking a lot like, well you know what, very soon.


My Quaker forebears on the paternal side most likely would have been a little cranky about Thanksgiving and the idea that one should set aside a specific day once a year to be especially thankful. Their eminently sensible concept was that it was more appropriate to practice gratefulness on a daily basis. So I like to think about that on Thanksgiving, too.

It’s also useful to remember that some Native American tribes not that long ago designated our EuroAmerican feast day, with a good deal of justification, a national day of mourning. Although that legendary first Thanksgiving during 1621 at Plymouth involved members of both the Wampanoag and Pilgrim tribes, we’ve given neither the Wampanoag nor other indigenous people much to be thankful for since then. Something else to think about as we thank God (and congratulate ourselves) for our good fortune.

I’m mentioning that now because I have two Thanksgiving invites, one Thursday and the other Sunday, and most likely will be so stuffed by the time all is said and done to think clearly.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is another card from Ida, but I can't make out the year. She was still feeding extra men involved in hauling hay and feed and asked Jessie, "Do you remember 13 years ago this year?" Wish I knew what that was about.

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