She Called Me “Ort”

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I have written before of the death of my beloved Aunt Cary, but I am thinking about her a lot this Thanksgiving weekend. It was Thanksgiving of 1969 that Cary walked off a ledge in Manhattan and fell to her death. We didn’t learn about it for several days, since she had no identification with her. I came down with Hepatitis A that weekend, courtesy of a contaminated restaurant worker, and was unable to go to Chicago for her funeral.

She was only seventeen when my parents left me in Buffalo with my grandparents for several months while they went West to establish a new life and career.( A whole other story.) That means that it was Cary who took major care of me from 11 months until 14 months. She was there when I learned to walk, and she occasionally came West to visit us.

She always called me “ort.”  I found her chain smoking, insomnia, fast talking and loud laugh a wonderful contrast to my parents. Yes, she was probably bi-polar, but I didn’t have a clue. I loved her without reserve.

By the time I was in college, she was more seriously ill, unable to hold a job, and held for a while in a pre-enlightened Chicago psychiatric hospital. I visited her there on my way to Cambridge, and she looked so wistfully at me saying, “you look so collegiate.” In 1967, she was living in Manhattan, and  I had tea with her in the Russian Tea Room (where the men bring their girlfriends, she confided) when she was living at the Barbizon. That was the last time we saw each other.

So here’s to you Aunt Cary. You were and are a true blessing in my life and I give thanks for you tonight.

“Over the River and Through the Woods”

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My parents had moved across the country from their parents and relatives, so at Thanksgiving we celebrated with another family who had similarly left their families behind in the East. Our good family friends had tried for years to have children, and finally adopted two, including this little one on her father’s lap.

We had a very predictable dinner for the times: turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green beans(without that crunchy topping.) But the real fun was before dinner when we would stick ten blacks olives on our fingers, one per finger, and chase each other around. We would also stick our fingers in the wax dripping off the candles and make little wax fingers. We had the opposite of helicopter parents, for sure.

My mother did teach me one important skill I use every Thanksgiving, how to make giblet gravy. I remember how when I start making it, but I would be hard pressed to explain how I do it. My husband, who grew up in the South with very different ordinary foods, was knocked over the first time he had the gravy. Now it is his most looked forward to food each year. I also converted him to the New England whole cranberry sauce. He missed the little ridges from the canned cranberry jelly the first year we were married, but he has come to prefer mine.

Happy Thanksgiving all.