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The Good Days Of November

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Carol Bossard

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November, the month of golden topaz gem stones and heaps of topaz leaves fallen from trees. November is a month of birthdays; my husband’s is today and one son’s is at the end of the month, with several family members in between.  Kerm’s birthday means strawberry shortcake tonight. That is his choice over any cake I could bake.   My eldest brother shared my husband’s November 3d birthday.  Kerm was born about the time Frank went to war in WWII but regardless of their age difference, they both agreed that strawberry shortcake with large dollops of real whipped cream (preferably Guernsey) was a gourmet gift.

Speaking of yummies, we just gathered with Kerm’s family for a Saturday afternoon --- and, of course--- dinner.   There were 13 around the table and so our house was filled to the brim with conversation, good food and laughter.  Some cousins, nieces and nephews were missing for various reasons, so we hope to see them the next time around.  I know that not everyone feels “at home” with the families they marry into and that is sad.  I am fortunate; my husband’s family members were welcoming and caring and I’ve always been glad to be a part of them.  We’ve shared a lot of stories and good times over the years, and are comfortable together.  And now that my siblings have passed on, I’m happy to have siblings via marriage.

We also had opportunity to visit our son and family in their new Vermont home.  Vermont in the fall, is picture-book perfect.  It was a lovely drive through the farmland of NYS’s Washington County and then over the border amid Vermont’s hills, covered in autumn leaves at their colorful peak.  It was a short trip due to Monday appointments, but now we can visualize them driving to town, enjoying their view of the hills and attempts to keep their dogs within bounds.    Those same dogs, early in the move, met a new and painful foe in Vermont ---- a porcupine.  The results were quite dreadful for the dogs, and expensive for their owners.  Hopefully, the silly canines will remember and not be tempted to aggressively face the prickly one again.  Joey, the elder dog is pretty smart, but Henry…not so much!  Or perhaps the temptation is always just more than Hanry can resist.

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Woodstock, Vermont ( image courtesy Pixabay )

November is usually a fine late fall month, not too cold with only occasional snow flurries.  Of course, with our recent weird weather patterns, anything could happen, from balmy to blizzards. Thanksgiving is just ahead, and even though recent history has removed much of the romanticism around the Pilgrim stories, our own family’s history of Thanksgivings makes the day very special.   Both my family, and Kerm’s used to gather with a large group of siblings, nieces and nephews, for dinner and good times.  Now, we are too many and too scattered, but the warm memories linger.  We recall the youngster whose preferred dinner one year was a black olive on each of his ten fingers and a plate of pumpkin pie.  We remember the chorus of teens singing “Bless This House”.  We remember the euchre games (my family) and pinochle games (Kerm’s family) entertaining us after dinner ---- some by playing and some by listening to the players.  We sigh over the remembrance of Nickie’s scalloped potatoes, Betty’s rolls, Ken’s molasses cake and Tootie’s wonderful salads.  Kerm’s mom excelled in heavenly hash and scalloped oysters.  These many blessings from our past, encourage us to gratefully continue celebrating with whoever can come, and wherever we can be together.

November, especially in New York and Pennsylvania, brings deer-hunting season for those seeking quiet time in the woods and/or venison for their freezers.  In Pennsylvania, the opening days of hunting season are so important that in some districts, schools are closed.  With hunting season comes a tension for humans caught between enjoying the graceful and picturesque deer, and enjoying venison stew while knowing that without hunting, the deer would take over our gardens, streets and roads.  Life just keeps presenting ethical dilemmas!

Then there’s the time issue!  Daylight- Savings Time ends on November 5th, bringing earlier darkness to those of us who pine for more light in the evening.  But for people who enjoy earlier sunrises, the autumn change is welcome.  It would be easier for everyone if there was an absolute decision made to go one way or the other all year, but even now, not all states are the same.  So, we’ll probably go blundering along, trying to remember if we’re falling back or marching forward each spring and fall.

Perhaps most important, this is the month when we vote to elect persons for various jobs of service and leadership --- a privilege not all the world owns. In the process, we need to somehow remind those elected that they are there for service and good leadership, not profit and prestige.   We --- and they ---- need to remember that “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”*  So, exercise your voting rights and get to the polls on November 8th; only the irresponsible or foolish refuse to vote.  Look searchingly at the candidates for integrity, for kindness, and for intelligence --- not bombastic, self-centered ridiculous promises or those running on one issue.  Winston Churchill** has been quoted as saying: “Americans will always do the right thing --- after they’ve exhausted every other possibility.”  That is amusing, if slightly cynical, but neither cynicism nor gullibility are acceptable mind-sets for anyone who cares about their country.    We need integrity and practical intelligence!

Veterans’ Day (formerly Armistice Day) is November 11th. It was first established for the celebration of WWI’s ending.The armistice was signed and bells (from cow bells to church bells) rang out from every city and hamlet, all across the continent. It has since become a day to render respect and gratitude to veterans who have been part of our country’s defense at any time. 

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Whether or not we agree with all of the conflicts in which this nation has participated, we should honor those who go when called; who place their lives on front lines. Defending one’s country, whether by voting, by human services, education or by armed services, is our responsibility; a responsibility to fulfill, each as our conscience leads us.

As we come closer to the end of the calendar year, we all tend to hope that life may be better in a new year.  As I count the increasing years in my own life, I appreciate this comment from Dr. Seuss:*** “Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets.  So, love the people who treat you right, forgive those who don’t, and believe that everything happens for a reason.  If you get the chance, take it.  If it changes your life, let it.  Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.”  Perhaps, this doesn’t go as far as we are Biblically directed regarding forgiveness and love, but it is a good place to begin.  We all need a starting place from which to grow.  At no age should we allow ourselves to become stodgy and encased in a rut, thinking we can now sit back and vegetate.  We need to continue growing in love and world-building until our last breath.

And speaking of last breaths, most want to put this off as long as possible.  But we also, either naively or lazily, expect our doctors to keep us healthy, and we blame them when we aren’t. They may do their best, but unless we are open to changes in our daily lives, they are handicapped.   Not all health comes out of a pill bottle.  Doctors often give advice that doesn’t require scans, salves, creams or pills, but does require our listening and our participation. All physicians recommend getting outside for some kind of exercise and fresh air.  I learned how quickly muscle strength and tone could be lost when I spent part of a year on the couch at the onset of fibromyalgia.  I’d spent my life lifting young children, I had tossed bales of hay and I moved furniture regularly ---- and suddenly, I couldn’t pick up a bag of cat food.  Ever since that time, I’ve been attempting, sometimes with more diligence than other times, to retrieve muscle tone and strength--- and as one ages it gets harder.  I do my best to keep moving even on difficult days.   As the temperatures drop, climbing the hill behind our house isn’t quite so attractive an activity.  And weeding loses its charms, as the soil grows damp and cold.  But once outside, my mood lifts appreciably.  And just walking around on our uneven, uphill lawn is exercise of a sort.  So, I’ll keep on getting out and putting one foot ahead of the other!  My body – my daily health ---my responsibility!

Right now, I need to turn my feet toward the kitchen where I will use my mother’s recipe for baking powder biscuits.  They are the preferred base for those strawberries and the whipped cream with which we will quietly celebrate Kerm’s birthday.    As November begins, I hope we all take time to celebrate the seasonal changes and patterns around us ---- the tracery of tree branches against the sky, the seed pods, the tawny grasses, the daily movements in the world outside our windows.  We can note the return of winter birds, the frostiness of mornings and the slow descent of nature into winter’s quiet.  Hopefully, awareness will spark the imagination and open us to absorb the late fall wonders.

*********

Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net.

*Quotation written in a letter from Lord Acton to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887.

**Winston Churchill ---British politician, soldier and statesman who was Prime Minister from 1940-1945, during WWII.

***Dr. Seuss---Theodore Seuss Geisel was an American author of over 60 books and is known for his illustrations and catchy rhyming, under the pen name of Dr. Seuss.  1904-1991.

 

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