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Rural reminiscence: Pumpkins, stuffing and Yuletide

By P.D. Dickinson
October was essentially the start of the holiday season to us children on the farm. We drew full moons silhouetted with flying witches on brooms, dancing skeletons and flying bats to display throughout our home. We stuffed tattered clothes and made scarecrows to sit on the porch, and we carved pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns with the scariest faces our young minds could imagine.
We happily made our own costumes from old clothes and covered our faces with mother’s makeup or plastic masks from the dollar store. Most importantly, we decorated brown paper bags to carry the candy, cookies and other treats we collected from our neighbor’s houses. In those more innocent times, we had the luxury of not having to worry about any of the treats being tampered with. It seemed to be a kinder, more loving time when people cared about
the welfare of each other’s families as well as their own.
November found us anticipating Thanksgiving as we changed our Halloween decorations to depict pilgrims, cornucopias and turkeys.
Thanksgiving was a whole family affair with aunts, uncles and cousins all participating. Everyone carried in bowls, platters and pans of homemade foods early that morning of the big feast. The women immediately threw on holiday aprons to keep their good dresses clean as they finished preparations for the meal. The glorious smells that emanated from the kitchen tempted us kids to sneak tastes until we were shooed away to go play.
The older boys and men gathered their Beagles and guns to go rabbit hunting. The women encouraged this activity, as it kept the menfolk out of their way while they cooked. Thanksgiving was not just a turkey-day for our family; all kinds of meats were prepared, including rabbit if they got any.
After saying grace, we were regaled with stories of the morning hunt. Each hunter had his own version to relate. (Sometimes I wondered if they just went hunting so they’d have fresh stories to tell while we ate.)
No matter the reason, it was great fun for everyone to share in the excitement through the telling of their stories and fun-loving verbal jabs they took at each other about the hunt.
After the satisfying dinner, many times my family members would break out guitars, banjoes, mandolins, and fiddles to play tunes while the rest of us enjoyed the lively music.
Like Thanksgiving, Christmas was also a big feast and preparations began early. We kids started early too and excitedly created our handmade decorations as a prelude to the approach of Christmas. We drew, colored and glittered paper Santas, snowmen, snowflakes, silver bells, angels, wreaths and anything else Christmas-y we could think of.
We also enjoyed making our own tree decorations to add to the store-bought ones we already had. We made long, looped paper chains and strung popcorn and red berries with needle and thread into lengthy, colorful roping to drape around the tree. No matter how childish our decorations looked, our parents always proudly let us display them around our home and on the tree.
Our home was scented with the natural cedar tree and homemade evergreen wreathes. We also made evergreen mantel arrangements with painted and glittered pine cones, candles and more of the handmade roping to hang in swags along the mantels above the crackling fireplaces. Evergreen branches were plentiful since we lived right next to the woods. Making the decorations was almost as fun as opening the presents our parents had carefully wrapped and hidden to keep us from meddling with them before Christmas.
Looking back into memories of our holidays on the farm, it’s pleasant and comforting remembering our handmade decorations and so much joyful time we spent together creating and decorating with them.

Rural reminiscence
Portia Dickinson, who goes by the pseudonym P.D. Dickinson, will retell a childhood memory she shared with her family on the farm in this quarterly memoir.

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