Sign of the Season

 (Picture courtesy of

I was driving to the grocery store this morning to do the requisite shopping for Thursday’s holiday meal.  We’re getting off easy this year, as we’ll be dining with friends who are taking on the brunt of things like pies and cooking the bird.  I’ve been asked to provide a vegetable dish (acorn squash baked with apples – oh my yes!) and stuffing.

The stuffing is an iffy proposition at best.  My mother made the world’s best stuffing, a dense dish heavy with bread, potatoes (yes, potatoes), onions, celery, milk, butter, and what my husband describes as a “metric butt-ton” of poultry seasoning.  It’s a wonderful thing.  Now, you’d think that one of her three daughters would have inherited the “stuffing gene,”right?  But such is not the case.  Although at least two of us have made repeated attempts at duplicating her fabulous recipe, the result never tastes the same.  So I’ve warned our hosts that this will be definitely be an experimental dish (I’m ditching Mom’s recipe and trying something new) to which the male half the party said, “Your experiments always turn out great, so no worries.”

God bless him.

At any rate — as I was driving to the store, I got to thinking about that iconic Thanksgiving image — the resplendent Tom turkey, tail feathers fanned in display.  He’s everywhere this time of year — on cards, in windows, on signs, hung on school-room walls.  You know the one I mean:

 FAKE TURKEY (courtesy of

 REAL TURKEY (courtesy of

TOTAL TURKEY (courtesy of

And I flashed on a memory that I’m willing to bet many of you share:  the turkey hand.  Or the hand turkey, depending upon your phraseology.  Oh, come on.  Don’t give me that look.  You know exactly what I mean:

(Courtesy of

It must have been somewhere between first and third grades that I learned to make these.  (Probably first grade, knowing my lovely, wonderful teacher Mrs. Kirkpatrick.)  Take a clean sheet of paper, place your open hand on it, palm down, trace around it with a crayon, and color it in to your heart’s delight.  If your teacher was particularly brave, paint was allowed.

This jolly fellow was our harbinger to the holiday to come.  Halloween was behind us, our candy consumed, our pumpkins consigned to the trash, costumes put away for another year.  Christmas loomed in the distance, hidden behind the hump of Thanksgiving and all its trappings, the wonderful food, glorious smells, and hope of snow.  How best to help us prepare, than for our teacher to instruct us in the world’s easiest way to draw a turkey?

Do they still do it this way, I wonder?  If not, they should.  If not, YOU should.  Find a little kid and get to it!


Another Thanksgiving memory surfaced while I was writing this:

One year, the bindery in which my dad worked closed on Thanksgiving week and gave every a “vacation.”  Because we only ever saw my mother’s family in Maine once a year, in summer, my folks decided we would go up for Thanksgiving.  While this no doubt was something of a pain in the tuchus for my parents (well, for my mother in particular, since she was the one stuck packing the suitcases at the last minute), for me it was a moment of magic.  See my grandparents and cousins when it wasn’t summer?  Rapture!

I remember we purchased a Swifts Premium Turkey Roast (I can still hum the jingle) for the centerpiece of our meal.  I’m sure the usual trappings were there (potatoes — well, it IS Maine, after all, stuffing, vegetables), though I can’t remember them now.  I do recall that Grandma made me jello in one of her copper molds.  (I’d been begging for ages and when she finally agreed, my mother said, “If she’s going to all that trouble, you’d better eat every bit!”  I did…and these molds were BIG.)

As if all this wasn’t enough to make the holiday special, it snowed.  And when I saw snowed, I mean it in big letters:  S-N-O-W-E-D!  A real old-fashioned New England nor’easter screaming across northern Maine.  Something in the afternoon, Pop called me out of the kitchen, down the short hall to past the laundry room and basement door and stood me on my tiptoes on an over-turned box to look out the window of the back door.  The snow raced sideways in powdery sheets lit by the flood light near the back steps.  And there, forging a track from beneath the steps to the garden shed, was an ermine.

 (Courtesy of

I don’t know if he was hunting like this fellow or not.  Possibly he was, or perhaps he’d found a way into the cellar and a bit of warmth.  Whatever his mission, Pop and I watched him for some time, and it was a bit of magic I’ve held onto for years.


And one last thing, just because it made me laugh:


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


About Melissa Crandall

Longer ago than I care to admit--although I will--I cut my writing teeth on fanzines and media tie-in novels. Since then, I've moved on to narrative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and essays. I write to explore and understand the world around me, the things I see and experience nearby or from a distance. If I shake myself up, cool. If I shake you up, even better. Not gratuitously--what's the point in that?--but to set what I know, or think I know, on end and realize, "Well, doesn't it look different from this side!" My work is neither sexually explicit nor graphically violent. Let's face it - your imaginations will come up with things far worse than anything I could write, no matter how descriptive. Besides, it's just not my thing. I live in Connecticut with my supportive husband Ed, a cat named Ruby who might just think she's a dog, and an epileptic Australian shepherd named Holly who isn't quite certain anymore who she is, except she knows she loves her mommy.
This entry was posted in autumn, Childhood, Dogs, Essays, Fall, Family, Holiday, Jell-O, Maine, Melissa Crandall, Memoir, Oakfield, Personal History, Snow, Thanksgiving and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Sign of the Season

  1. Becky says:

    I remember those copper molds, what ever happened to them?

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