The Making of Marty
by Elsie Talmage Brandley
Chapter 11 – Thanksgiving
In November came the beautiful days that had been strangers to October. For two weeks the sun was bright and the red and yellow autumn leaves on the hillsides made flaming patches that invited eager children to come and gather them before winter set in with its icy winds. The air was frosty but the ground was dry and merry groups of boys and girls could be seen every afternoon and all day Saturday going towards the hills or returning with armfuls of leaves and bags of nuts.
The Conway girls and Marty seemed to enjoy the days very much. There was something about the recollection of their Halloween escapade which grew funnier as it drifted farther into the past. Every time they looked at one another these mysterious prowlers laughed suddenly. Mrs. Conway knew what was the cause of their mirth, but she did not ask them, and they never said a word about it to anyone.
As November got on past the middle, the talk gradually shifted from the jolly Halloween party at school to the more jolly Thanksgiving celebration yet to come. Most of the Springdale families raised their own turkeys or chickens and were thus provided with the mainstay of the big dinner for that day. The few unfortunates who lived in the town were always well taken care of by generous and friendly neighbors or relatives, so the day was always one of great rejoicing and true thanksgiving.
On the Monday before the great day, two things happened which were unusual. The first one was a gloriously deep snowfall which made people long to sit around their own firesides with their own families, which was a very proper longing at Thanksgiving time. The other event was not generally known, but in the Conway household it seemed very important. Mother Conway received a letter, and as she read it a surprised “Oh! how lovely!” broke from her. Tears of gladness filled her eyes as she read on, but at the end she refused to tell the girls a word that was in the letter or even hint at who had written it. They were almost wild with curiosity, but there seemed very little chance of getting any satisfaction in the matter, so they ceased their questioning, but went on wondering.
Dora was not to be left guessing long. She was blest with an active imagination and always settled things in her own mind whether it was correct or not.
“I think I know what Mother’s letter was about,” she told the others. “Last year Grandma couldn’t come to our house because she wanted to go to Marty’s because Aunt Louise was hurt, but she said she would try to come here this year. Now she thinks it will be jolly to surprise us all, so she tells Mother not to mention it to us girls. See? Doesn’t that sound all right?
“Of course. How stupid of us not to have thought of that before,” returned Claire. “I knew all about that affair of Grandma’s and I know she always likes to surprise us. Well, I’m glad she’s coming. I love a whole table full of people for Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t you, Marty?”
“I think so,” Marty answered quietly. “We haven’t a big family of our own, you know, and I used to think it was a dreadful bother to have a lot of visitors, but since I came here to live I’ve changed my mind. The more the merrier is my idea now.”
“Let’s get Grandma to teach us to make those ducky raisin cookies, with oatmeal or something. She gave me the recipe, but mine looked like pancakes that had been trodden on, instead of those perky little mounds she turns out.” It was Claire speaking. She was showing quite an aptitude for cooking lately, and it pleased her mother greatly. She was glad of help in that line.
The week wore on as slowly as weeks do when a desired day comes near the end. Finally, however, Wednesday afternoon actually arrived and school was dismissed until the following week.
“Let’s rush home and help make plum puddings,” called Dora, starting off on a run.
“We love the spicy smell of them cooking, don’t you, Marty?”
“Oh, yes! And maybe Aunt Nanna would let us make some ourselves. I’d dearly love to write and tell Mother and Daddy that I’d made a pudding all alone.”
Upon reaching home they found their plans would not work out exactly as they had hoped. Mrs. Conway was in her best dress, waiting at the front door for her daughters. They saw her hat and coat hung on the rack in the hall, and a traveling bag standing on the floor.
“What in the world has happened?” asked Dora.
“Mother! You aren’t going away the day before Thanksgiving!” Claire was about to cry.
“Just for a little while, girls. I’ll be back in time for dinner tomorrow, and when I show you what I’m going for you’ll be glad I did. Daddy will go with me and we want you to have dinner all ready by two o’clock as we’ll be hungry as bears when we get back.”
The girls, too amazed for speech, could only gaze at one another in astonishment.
“Come into the pantry and I’ll show you what is all ready,” their mother went on, so they followed where she led.
“Here are the squash pies all baked, and on this upper shelf are plum puddings in cans, just ready to place in hot water before dinner. I’ve cleaned the celery, and made salad dressing, so all you have to do is chop it very fine, and peel and chop six large apples to mix with it for salad. The turkey is out in the cooler waiting for the dressing and baking. I’ll have to leave you with the vegetables, salad and baking of the turkey. Can you three big girls manage that much?”
“Yes, Aunt Nanna,” and “Certainly, Mother,” came at once from two of them, but Dora was not satisfied.
“I’d be willing to do it every bit myself if I only knew where you are going and why.”
Mrs. Conway laughed.
“My little Curiosity Shop! Just wait until we walk in tomorrow and give you each a surprise – a different surprise for every one of you – and you’ll be glad I didn’t tell you. Now here are the directions I’ve written out for the day’s work – a card for each girl. Follow them and we’ll have the cleanest house and the nicest dinner you ever saw in your life.”
At this point Mr. Conway’s voice was heard in the front hall.
“Ready, Mother? We’ve only twenty minutes before train-time.”
There was a general kissing and hugging for a moment, and the parents were gone, leaving behind them that dreadfully empty feeling that always remains when loving Father and Mother go away.
“Let’s read our cards,” suggested Marty. “I’ll read my first instruction, then you, Dora, and then Claire.”
“How cute! Mine is in poetry, at least it rhymes,” exclaimed Dora, as she examined her card.
“I don’t mind working to rhymed orders a bit, do you, Claire?”
“No, I think it’s fun. Start to read, Marty.”
“‘First Marty, you take Teddy-boy
Flor your own care and pride and joy,’” read Marty.
“‘And Dora, please watch little Dick,
For too much sugar makes him sick.”“
“‘Now, Claire, the baby I leave to you,
Keep her bed beside yours the whole night through.’”
They laughed over their first items and went on to the next.
“‘For dinner tomorrow, potatoes please peel,
And for them I hope you’ll true gratitude feel.’”
“‘Dora, the parsnips you’ll find in a pan.
Peel, salt and boil them the nicest you can.’”
“‘Now, Claire, little cook, it is time to make dressing.
Read the back of this card, and you’ll need do no guessing.’”
There were three or four more directions for each girl concerning the heat of the oven, roasting the turkey, mixing the apples and celery for salad, etc., and they felt that it was more of a frolic they were to have than a task to perform.
The evening meal was very simple, for Mrs. Conway had made a quantity of delicious soup, and one of her famous custard puddings. Each girl took the younger child which had been assigned to her care, and performed all the little duties necessary, from washing face and hands for supper to undressing and tucking snugly in bed.
They were up early the next morning and had the house in order before it was time to get the turkey into the oven. For breakfast Marty had made an omelette, for she was anxious to show how well she had learned to cook at Mrs. Sandstrom’s, but the omelette had not seemed so fluffy as it should. After it was eaten, she found the whites of the eggs, stiff and frothy, still in the dish. She added a little pepper, salt and milk, and had a white omelette that was fluffy enough for anyone.
Teddy brought in wood and coal enough to roast a whole flock of turkeys, but fortunately Claire knew enough to use only a small part of it. She crumbled bread, chopped onions and powdered sage in the exact amounts directed by the recipe on the back of the card, and the result was stuffing for the big turkey that looked and smelled exactly like Mother Conway’s. After that was out of the way, the girls all began to work on the vegetables and salad. By the time they were prepared it was noon, so they all had a brief lunch of bread and jam and glasses of good, rich milk.
Then came the ceremony of setting the table. That was a rather hard thing to do for Dora still clung to the idea that Grandma Lane would appear sooner or later, and the fact that Mother had said there would be three surprises made her think that perhaps Aunt Sally and Uncle John might come, too. That was Grandma’s youngest son and his wife, and they lived very near Grandma and often went visiting with her.
“But if we put three extra places on the table and nobody comes it will look lots more bare than if we didn’t look as though we had expected anyone,” objected Claire.
“Let’s just put one plate on extra, and hope for Grandma,” was the way Marty settled the question. “Then if the others come we can squeeze up a little and make room.”
The table looked lovely with its centerpiece of apples, grapes and bananas, with sprays of ivy falling gracefully around the bowl. There were dishes of pickles and jelly dotted colorfully about the white cloth, and the log burning in the big fire-place gave a cheery glow to the room and made it seem impossible that the day outside was cloudy and dark. As the time sped on toward two o’clock, the girls began glancing out of the front window each time they went past, but until the one-0forty train whistled they did not expect to see the returning wanderers. When they heard the shrill assurance that the train was in, there was increased hustling and bustling to get the glasses filled with cold water, the baby’s chair and bib ready, and the other half dozen little things that must be done the last minute.
“Mother will have to make the gravy and finishing mashing the potatoes. I simply can’t get these dreadful lumps out,” complained Claire.
“I think I hear them on the porch. Let’s all six line up in the hall to greet them,” answered Marty. So each girl gathered up her little charge and rushed out to give the homecomers a warm welcome.
Opening the front door was someone, but it was not Mother.
“Marian!” cried that girl’s two sisters, as they gave her a bear hug tight enough to strangle her.
Marty’s heart was doing queer things. If Marian was home, perhaps the people out on the porch would prove to be very dear to her.
“Oh, it is! It’s Mother and Daddy,” and Marty throwing herself into her father’s strong arms began to cry as though her heart would break. Then turning to her mother who was strong and rosy once more she cried harder than ever, but everyone seemed to understand it for most of them were doing the same thing. Ted was doing his best to get hold of Marian, but Dicky and the baby had recognized their parents and ran to them. So everybody was being violently hugged by somebody, just as though the turkey were not in danger of being burned to a crisp.
At last they tore apart and began the business of removing wraps, depositing bags and baggage, and flying kitchenward to see that all was well. It was half an hour before they finally sat down to eat, after having squeezed in the two extra places.
The meal was delicious, but they would scarcely have noticed it if everything had been over-salted or under-done, so happy were they all in being together again. There was so much to talk about that it seemed impossible that they would ever get everything said. Dr. Lane was so proud of the fact that Marty had peeled the potatoes and made the salad all but the dressing, that he hardly wanted to eat anything else. His wife was so happy to see Marty looking so well that she kept her eyes upon her almost every minute and forgot to eat several times. As for Marian’s family, they kept looking at her much as though an angel had dropped in unexpectedly to dinner, so all together it was a very joyous affair.
After dinner the dishes were cleared away with the usual haste and orderliness. Mrs. Lane, watching Marty flying around with the others, felt that without anything else, that was worth a whole day of thanksgiving.
In the evening all of them gathered around the grate fire to talk some more. Marian told of California and the glorious year she had spent, and Marty talked of Springdale and the wonderful things she had learned there. As they arose to have their evening prayer, Mr. Conway asked, “Has it been a happy Thanksgiving Day, kiddies?”
“It ought to be,” replied Claire emphatically. “I’ve been thinking it over and have decided that we have everything to be thankful for.”
And the others, thinking it over, agreed with her.