A Blog of Personal Thoughts
The worn Thanksgiving knife is the one with the twine handle, the bottom one. The others are “normal” and have been in the knife drawer of this house for at least 65 years. I show them for comparison to the worn blade of the turkey knife.
Last week was busy with Thanksgiving, minor house repairs to the Oregon house, walks, and writing. I use the knife with the twine handle every day when here. It is definitely a Thanksgiving knife. Why?
When we lived in Maine, my mother always ordered our Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s turkeys from the University of Maine agricultural farm. She ordered the neck still attached because that’s the way my father liked it, and, of course, the giblets, liver, and heart for the gravy. Some years I went with her to the butcher shop to fetch the turkey. Once home, I remember having fun helping her pull out the pin feathers that were left and there were usually plenty of them.
One year she brought the turkey home and the knife with the twine handle was still inside the bird. On Monday, when the shop was open again, she took the knife back. She knew someone had forgotten and left it in there.
The butcher’s response: “You paid by the pound. You bought the knife.”
I don’t know the weight of the knife, not much, but it has been a treasured family item for many decades now.
We lived in Maine when my father was a professor and department head on the university faculty. He was a chemist and had a lot to do with wood and paper making. We moved there after living in New York City for a year. I thought I’d left the noisy, dirty city for a place in heaven. I didn’t have to tell my parents where I would be and who I was going to play with. I could just announce that I was going out to play, walk up to the university to see my father, or go to the farm area. I also liked going with my father into the forest, down to the rivers to see the men pole the logs to the mill, and touring paper mills.
The farm was one of the best things to do in Orono. Different barns had sheep, cows, pigs, or horses. I suppose there was also a building for the chickens and turkeys, but it was the large animals I liked. My favorite were the sheep and cows. I could bury my small hand in a sheep’s wool and go all the way down to the oil between the wool and sheep's oily skin to touch the lanolin. The animals and I were not afraid of one another. I liked the cows because of the milking and the calves. My treasure of a day was when I walked in to see the veterinarian with his arm inside a cow, inside all the way up to his armpit.
“What are you doing?” I asked, even though I was quite surprised.
He answered that the cow was pregnant, the calf about to be born but was breech. He explained to me, age eight or nine, what that meant, why it was a problem, and that he had to turn the calf around. I didn’t grow up on a farm but it was one of my favorite places to spend an afternoon after school when it wasn’t cold enough to go ice skating.
The farm and its barns and small pastures were only a mile from where we lived so it was close enough for a walk.
What else did I do when I lived in Orono, Maine those three years? I played with my friends Mary Jo, Butch, Rita, and Connie. One of the best events were the snowball fights at school recess. We built snow forts to give us some protection until we went from behind the snow wall for closer attacks. I didn’t mind getting hit in the face. It was snow down my back I hated. It melted and made me feel cold, but I never dreamed of giving up the snowball fight or going inside. We had our own rule that there would be no ice in the snowballs. This was an amazing joy in the late 1940s and early 50s, something I never would have allowed when I was an elementary principal in the 1990s.
Maine was one of my favorite places to live. I love winter and Maine had a lot of it. The aurora borealis displays were the best I’ve ever seen. It was November of 1951 and they occurred every night for about three weeks. My mother always awakened me in the middle of the night. We stood in the upstairs hallway, leaned on our elbows on the top of the cabinet and stared out the windows at the variegated and everchanging red, blue, green, yellow, and purple colors. One night it was an all-red one, a rare one, one that a person is likely to see once in a lifetime. Living in Alaska now, I’ve seen two more of them. One night in Maine, we saw an all-white one that moved a lot, but my mother said “Oh this is boring. Let’s go back to bed.” I was not bored at all, but went back to my cozy, multi-blanketed top bunk
One of the many Dryden Terrace apartment buildings. The pitched roof, open to the north, was and is ideal for watching auroras.
While walking in Alaska one winter day, I came across Richard plowing the park road. He stopped and we talked about the previous night’s aurora and the amazing auroras of that November so long ago. As children, he lived in Sitka, Alaska and I in Orono, Maine. I learned that day that we saw the same auroras. I don’t know why we wouldn’t, but that still surprised me.
Today I watch it snows at our house in Oregon, 5,000 feet in the desert mountains. I cannot see the mountains around, but that’s all right because I still love the snow.
As I look out the window and write, I sit here thinking about the knife with the twine handle safely tucked in its slot in the knife holder on the kitchen counter, ready for use the next time I need it.