You’re ready to roast the turkey…you’ve added mushrooms, onion, and chestnuts to the Pepperidge Farm stuffing…the pies are on the counter…and then you get a phone call from your cousin, who has been committed to the mental hospital. To riff on a phrase from Little Women, Thanksgiving won’t be Thanksgiving without her!
In Louisa May Alcott’s “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving,” an unexpected illness also disrupts Thanksgiving.
At the beginning, Mrs. Bassett is cozily preparing the feast the day before the holiday.
“I do like to begin seasonable and have things to my mind. Thanksgivin’ dinners can’t be drove, and it does take a sight of victuals to fill all these hungry stomicks,” said the good woman, as she gave a vigorous stir to the great kettle of cider apple-sauce, and cast a glance of housewifely pride at the fine array of pies set forth on the buttery shelves.”
And then a stranger brings bad news. Mrs. Bassett’s mother is “failn’ fast.” She and her husband drop everything, promise the children a feast later, and take the sleigh to Gram’ma’s.
The older girls, Prue and Tillie, decide to make the dinner themselves. They’ve seen Ma do it many times. If you’ve read Little Women, you know the cookery may be iffy. Jo’s salt instead of sugar in the strawberries doesn’t begin to cover it.
I can’t pretend this one of Alcott’s better efforts, but she is one of our very best American writers, and I have read An Old-Fashioned Girl (my favorite), Little Women, Work (her adult Little Women), and Hospital Sketches many times. I am now breezing throuhg Aunt Jo’s Scrap-Bag, which you can download it free on the internet.
I do wish we had cider apple-sauce at our house.
And I love Alcott’s dialogue (and occasional dialect)!
Tilly Bassett, whatever made you put wormwood and catnip in your stuffin’?” demanded Ma, trying not to be severe, for all the rest were laughing, and Tilly looked ready to cry.
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope all is well with you and your family.