Treasure from the Past

Growing up, my mom decorated for the holidays. A lot of the ornaments and decorations she made herself, and I still have some today.

Of course Christmas was the real winner, but that didn’t mean Thanksgiving got left out. We had cornucopias, gourds, turkey-shaped salt & pepper shakers, and of course, the pilgrim candles.

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The Little Pilgrim Girl candle…I’m betting some of my readers have, or had, one just like it.

Over the years I claimed the little girl pilgrim as mine. I suppose that would have meant the little boy was my brother’s, and the coordinating turkey candle may have been my sister’s. She probably wouldn’t have liked that, but she made it pretty clear she didn’t care for the pilgrim candles to start with. A born artist, she had far more appreciation for the cornucopia and the gourds, so decorative all on their own.

At some point, I’m guessing when my parents divorced and my mom threw out many of the things that reminded her of her life with my father, the pilgrim candles disappeared. I was crushed. Each year I would hope they’d miraculously pop up, but they never did. I believe Mom held onto the turkey salt & pepper shakers for a good long time, however, as well as some of the serving trays.

Other traditions also continued. Many of you Americans know the same ones: the green bean casserole, celery smeared with cream cheese and topped with paprika, and if we were really lucky, twice-baked potatoes.  And the pies…make mine pecan. Or apple. Or a “small” slice of both, and lots of real whipped cream. When my mom re-married, she and my step-dad took on gourmet cooking (well, she’d always been a skilled cook) and a few new delicacies made it to the table.

My family has the same dysfunctions any family has, and like everyone else, they are showcased at Thanksgiving. My grandfather’s bigotry, the endless questions and speculations about a sibling’s or cousin’s absence, the family gossip, distorted and one-sided as all such talk is likely to be. My tendency was to tolerate it for as long as I could, then retreat to my bedroom until my presence was requested. I can’t say I looked forward to the holiday, but I don’t recall dreading it either.

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That’s the late great Paco sitting on the three-drawer dresser I got for helping Mark with his mom’s estate.

I continued to miss my little Pilgrim girl. Why, I’m not certain, but I did. Then one spring, my then boyfriend’s mother died. I helped him sort through all of her things and prepare them for the estate sale. While he and his brother could have kept anything they wanted before the estate sale lady took over, one of the rules of the sale was once something is priced, it is to be sold at that price. No more family members claiming what they believe rightfully belongs to them. And, family couldn’t buy anything before the sale started.

We had plenty of time to peruse her belongings before the estate sale team took control, and thankfully we were careful. We found stock certificates, cash that had been gifts in birthday and Christmas cards, and a few valuables we knew should stay in the family. For my efforts, my boyfriend gave me a three-door dresser I still treasure today.

But neither of us saw the little Pilgrim girl until the day before the sale. Marked at only 25 cents, I told Mark that despite our plans to stay away, I would be at the door promptly when the sale opened and I would make a bee-line for that candle. The estate sale lady relented and allowed me to buy the little trinket that night. I suspect she didn’t want us there the next day. It was generally considered advisable not to be nearby.

Today, even though she doesn’t sit up straight, she is a treasured part of my Thanksgiving celebration. I’m told she’s a bit of a collectible, just a small bit, but I wouldn’t let her go for any price. She helps make Thanksgiving worth celebrating.


Candle