Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Hulda Conitz Keeling in the dining room of the home she shared with her husband, A.L.
Several years ago, I started a large watercolor of a family dinner at this table, in this dining room. I had it drawn and ready to paint, before I was to have surgery. In preparing for recovery, I put stacks of books, pictures I wanted to work on, and art and writing materials beside my bed at home. The family dinner watercolor was one of those that I intended to finish.
I never have found those pictures again. The pain meds they gave me didn't stop any pain or even knock me out. I just kept wishing that it would hurry up and be 4 hours later, so I could take more medicine, and hope for some relief. Meanwhile, I took a lot of hot showers, or sat in the den in front of the tv, sort of in a stupor, I guess. The only thing those pills seemed to do was to make me forget where I put things when I needed them later. They didn't even make me forget the pain.
I have intended to start over on my family dinner picture, but I'm a little frustrated because I liked the drawing that I had. I don't think that I can do the same thing again, as it was. I drew it from the viewpoint of someone coming into the room through the swinging door to the kitchen. The sideboard stuck out a little bit for a 3-d effect. I showed the children playing under the table, as we did when the grownups talked. Toot was serving as was the maid hired for the day. Honey was at his place at the head of the table, Grandpa Conitz on the other end. With their backs to the living room were Mamie and Henry,Asta and Maurine and Owen, Alfred and Ellen, Irvin, and a guest. On the opposite side were Grandma Conitz, Thelma, Pappy and Uncle Tom, Katie and Uncle Dennis, Emma Dee and Uncle Doc with his sister and Grandma Miles, (I can't remember if I had Grandpa Miles in my drawing or not. He was there, while his health allowed him to travel). And there was an empty chair next to Honey, where Toot would sit when she was between serving. Sometimes there was a card table set up for extra guests, and some ate in the kitchen at the breakfast table.
The food was always good. We decided that Toot's secret ingredient was a little sherry or wine, which she kept hidden in the kitchen china cabinet.
One of these days, I need to get my nerve up and try this again, since I haven't found any photos of the group in this house.
This was the family photo that was used in the newspaper in the 1970s. One man is not family. He is someone who was working in his antique store downtown and Daddy insisted that he come have Thanksgiving dinner with us. This was in a different great-aunt's home, Pappy and Uncle Tom's home. We had some great food while Pappy was still alive, too. This photo was taken after Pappy and Uncle Tom had died and my parents moved into this house , so we continued the Conitz family dinners there. Thelma decided that we should use the new technology of small tape recorders and have everyone give their name on tape, since our numbers attending were down due to deaths in the family. We were not too thrilled about doing it, but I guess it is valuable as a part of our family history. I don't know what happened to the tapes.
People were already sad and talking about those who were no longer with us, and how sad it was to see how much smaller our family had become. We all got a laugh when Jamey had his turn to speak his name, and he slipped and said Conitz for his last name, since everyone before him had said their name was Conitz.
We still had the big turkeys, roast, ham, and all the trimmings, despite lowered numbers of people who were eating.
This photo was in the same house, same family, but about 10 years later. The dining room is in the background behind the figures, and the kitchen is through the door to the right. Barbara's dog made it into this picture. By this time, Toot was in the nursing home, but we brought her home for the family dinner. We had lost more family members. It was getting too sad to record names on Thelma's tape recorder, and to listen to the voices of those were no longer with us.
The food was still good, and we continued the same traditions. The Aggie-Texas game on tv, getting together in the kitchen after the meal to do the dishes and put some of the food away while the men retreated to a comfortable chair to loosen their belts. Mama and Emma Dee usually washed dishes and put food away while Irvin dried dishes and Thelma dried the silverware and supervised. Going back for "just a bite" of the food from dinner. After everything was put in order in the dining room and kitchen, Mama and Emma Dee would play the piano in the living room. Each would play pieces and share music, then they would play duets. Sometimes, we would have some singing, along with the piano. Going out to the pasture to check the cows, and look for a Christmas tree, or going for a little ride until time for supper. The grownups sitting around the table, talking, while the kids wanted to be with their friends or out in the yard. The underside of the dining room table made a nice blackboard to decorate with crayons when we were told that we had to stay there. Boy, were some ladies surprised when they turned the tables over years later, and saw some crudely written names, alphabets, and childish drawings in crayon!
And Now we are Six
Today, when we have family dinners, there are six of us, including our oldest member. Out of the photos above, there are a total of ten people still living. We don't all get together anymore, although we tried to do that for a while. Some went their seperate ways with their own families, and with high food and gas prices, and some of us aging and not being able to do all the heavy lifting and long hours in the kitchen preparing a wonderful meal, we just gave in to the commercialism and will be going out to Luby's to eat for Thanksgiving. The last couple of years, we went to Golden Corral, but the lines were just entirely too long and it was too crowded.
It's really sad, though, to not have those great leftovers to make turkey sandwiches with or to have all the wonderful family recipes, and good china, crystal, and silverware, and time at home.
We plan to watch the Aggie-Texas game on tv at night. I'm glad that has returned to Thanksgiving. It just didn't seem like "Turkey Day" without the big game that day.
Good luck, Ags! Whoop!
Wish I could see the Corps march and Midnight Yell in Austin at the Capitol, but I guess we will have to wait until the Christmas parade here to see the Corps. I also wish that the broadcasters would shut up at half time and show the best part of the game-the band!
I wish that there would be more movies about Thanksgiving. This afternoon, I've had the History Channel on with a movie about the Mayflower. I've seen it a couple of times before. But, as that ended, we have gone on to programs about the history of American Indians, including the story of Cynthia Ann Parker.
I will always remember one memorable Thanksgiving dinner, held in the dining room in the top picture. My dad was so impressed and talked, for years, about the time we had Thanksgiving with a real American Indian. That year, I brought a friend home from college to share our dinner. She said they didn't celebrate Thanksgiving. I was surprised because, having been in school in Texas, I didn't know how anyone could have missed Thanksgiving all their lives. She was such a beautiful, gentle girl who lived on the Alabama Coushatta Reservation at Livingston. Little did my dad, or the rest of the family, know that my mother's grandmother was part Cherokee. I guess we had some Native American blood with us at those Thanksgivings all along, ever since my parents married, and they didn't know it. I only found out a few years ago when I started working on family history. I remember asking my mother about our heritage, and she didn't know about the Native American ancestors. She said we were from England, Scotland, Ireland and, on my father's side, Germany and Sweden. We didn't know that countries also included Prussia (Poland), and Bavaria.
At our family dinners, we had some words that were always used, that we thought were German. They would say, "Please pass the cush, or pootie, sawdust, gunwadden, etc." Eventually I learned that, what they had told me was German, turned out to be words that my dad had picked up at A&M in the dining hall, when he was a student there. There went my foreign language skills! Cush was dressing, pootie was turkey, sawdust was sugar, gunwadding was bread, skyjuice was water, and more that I don't remember. I think those are in a book called "Good Bull", along with a lot of Aggie stories and traditions.
I hope that you enjoy looking at a few of our old family pictures. And that you are able to enjoy many of your own. Make some wonderful memories, have some delicious food, and have a safe and happy holiday.
A special wish for a great Thanksgiving goes out to our troops and our veterans. We are thankful for you! Another special group to be thankful for, and who are getting way too little recongnition and respect are our Border Patrol Agents, and especially the agents who are wrongfully suffering in prison for trying to protect us. Our prayers are certainly with them and their families. May you soon be able to enjoy life and special dinners, in peace, with your families again.
A get well wish goes out to Barbara Bush as she recovers from surgery. It's amazing that her doctors didn't find her problem sooner. Hope you are well and back in College Station for a visit real soon, Mrs. Bush.
And, of course, I am thankful for you-my readers and wish you and yours a wonderful day.
Happy Thanksgiving, Y'all!