Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Some Thanksgiving Memories

Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday when I lived in the USA. We always celebrated it and there was no religious component to introduce conflict or ambiguity. Oma was a fine cook, and stuffed roast turkey was one of her specialties. Among the regular guests were my favorite Aunt, Reba, and her husband Julius. Julius was my mother's brother, and he and Reba were childless, not by choice; for a while during WWII they took in foster children. They were both warm and affectionate people: Reba more outgoing, Julius more gentle.

Reba and Julius lived in the tiniest two-storey house in Suffolk County Long Island, during the days when it was mostly farmland and fishing docks. Reba's clam chowder was legendary (kashrut was a non-issue in my family), and in summer my brothers loved to go clamming with Uncle Julius at the nearby beaches to provide her with ingredients. Uncle Julius cultivated tomatoes and cucumbers in their disproportionately large garden. He also commuted to his work by Long Island Railroad and this was the glamour part: Uncle Julius was one of the first members of the Theatrical Lighting Electricians' Union, and he got to work the spotlights for Broadway shows. I was too little to go, but my older brothers and cousins remember seeing many a Broadway hit from the booth where Uncle Julius worked.

For the first couple of years of my life, we rented the house right next door to Uncle Julius and Aunt Reba, and my earliest memories are of the sounds of the mah jong tiles, and "Bam" and "Crack" coming from the ladies' games downstairs. It was a coal-heated house, and my mother would arise before dawn in winter to light the furnace in the cellar. It was a real cellar, not a basement, with entrance doors outside. (Does anyone know who said "cellar door" is one of the most beautiful phrases in English?)

Anyhow, back to Thanksgiving. A couple of years after I got married, my in-laws and my parents, my husband and I were all invited to Aunt Reba's for Thanksgiving dinner. At that dinner, with all the most important people present, we announced Big News: I was pregnant with elswhere! That Thanksgiving signalled the beginning of a gradual family transition for me from Daughter to HomeMaker. I was 29 years old.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


Anonymous said...

Um, what _is_ the difference between a basement and a cellar?

Savtadotty said...

So glad you asked!

In the Savtadotty lexicon, a cellar is the lowermost part of a building, below ground, has a low ceiling, maybe dirt wall or a dirt floor, and is not habitable. A basement is habitable, and can almost ways be entered from within the building, has at least minimal amenities like heat and flooring. In my childhood, a basements could serve as a "family room," but a cellar was at best a below-ground cold pantry.

Fred said...

You nailed it. It's one day that everyone who lives in this country can stop and celebrate, wihout any issues concerning religion.

I'm ready for the feast in about five hours. I can hardly wait!

Tan Lucy Pez said...

We've had our wonderful feast. Everything was perfect. All is wonderful in my life right now. I'm thankful for so much.

Happy day to you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your definitions!

I've never used the word cellar myself (except for in a childhood ditty that involved the word), so my impression was that basement and cellar were synonyms, and which was used was a regional matter, like bucket and spigot.

According to your definitions, I've never really experienced a cellar. The basements I've known are somewhat in between your definitions of cellar and basement. Your definition of basement I would call a finished basement.

Savtadotty said...

Anonymous: a "finished" basement in my day was indeed a further refurbishment of a basement, including pine panelling, tile flooring, and leatherette banquettes.

Now about bucket and spigot: where are they interchangeable? I thought a spigot was a faucet/spout combination, often at the side of a barrel, and a bucket was a wooden pail. Please elaborate.

(In case you haven't noticed, I am enjoying our etymological conversation.)

Anonymous said...

I too am enjoying our conversation.

Oy, I think I was tired. Bucket and spigot are of course not interchangeable! I meant to write faucet and spigot. Bucket and pail is another good example.