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Thanksgiving Notes and Poem

November 18, 2020

Thanksgiving Notes and Poem

By Alice Jane-Marie Massa

                Do you recall singing and/or reading “Over the river, and through the wood, to Grandfather’s house we go …” when you were in grade school?  Perhaps, you, like I, learned this poem by Lydia Maria Child (first published in 1844 in Flowers for Children, Volume II) as “Grandmother’s house”–not the original “Grandfather’s house.”  While the poem entitled “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving” consisted of twelve stanzas, the eventual song most often included only four of the stanzas.  While the composer of the music is unknown, Lydia Maria Child was known as a novelist, journalist, teacher, and poet. 

                Speaking of grandmothers and Thanksgiving, my earliest remembrance of Thanksgiving was at my maternal grandmother’s house.  I have a distinct recollection of being seated at the large round table while the room was filled with talking relatives:  as a young child of five or six, I wondered when I would ever have a chance to talk in the midst of this chatty gathering.  Many of our favorite Thanksgivings were at my Aunt Zita’s restaurant when a throng of more than thirty relatives took over the main room of the closed-for-the-holiday restaurant.  Since I have written about these Thanksgivings previously, I am sharing with you a new poem about my paternal grandmother because I wrote the first draft of this piece at a poetry workshop on November 1.  On that Sunday evening meeting of one of my writers’ groups, the guest speaker Marilyn Johnston, an acclaimed poet from Oregon, gave “hands” as one of the prompts.  After I brailled the first draft of the poem, I enjoyed presenting the poem at the workshop.  However, last week, I significantly expanded and revised the poem for my monthly critique group.  The latest version of the poem is a tribute to my grandmother whom many of us will recall this Thanksgiving; similarly, many of you will fondly remember your grandmothers.  Additionally, this poem is dedicated to my grandmother’s daughter–my Aunt Kathy who lives in snowy Minnesota.

* * *

The Hands of Liza Bogetto Massa–My Grandma Farm

By Alice Jane-Marie Massa

When I was very young,

Mrs. Toner told me that I had “piano hands”:

Despite my shorter stature,

I did have especially long hands–

An advantage for a student pianist.

At an early age, I could reach an octave;

However, my hands were nothing like my grandmother’s hands.

My Grandma Farm’s hands crocheted Italian lace pieces

At the speed of an Olympic runner.

Those artistic hands that created such textile art

Could also quickly wring the neck of a chicken

To provide a tasty supper for the family.

The strong hands that turned the polenta

Also made apple turnovers

From the apple trees on the farm

And grape jelly from my grandfather’s grape arbor.

The hands that milked the cows each dawn

Later fed the chickens and sole rooster.

Those age-spotted hands that kept a spotless kitchen

Also scrubbed the wood of the three-seater outhouse.

The hands that never seemed to rest

Reached out to hungry neighborhood children during The Depression

And handed them her homemade bread and jelly.

Those confident hands held the beads of the rosary each night

To pray for her four sons

Who were in Europe during World War II

To fight for their mother’s adopted country.

Those hands that prayed so fervently

Welcomed home four sons–safe and well.

Grandma’s arthritic hands set examples of hard work, determination,

Laughter, and love for almost ninety-six years.

Now, with my piano hands,

I touch one of my grandmother’s many lace pieces;

And I realize her heart was in her hands.

* * *

Early wishes for a very healthy and happy Thanksgiving!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

November 18, 2020, Wednesday


From → Uncategorized

  1. Hi Alice, such a lovely tribute to your grandmother! Thanksgiving is always a wonderful time to remember grandmothers and the hard work that it takes to make a family gathering successful. With this year being so unusual, large family gatherings are truly a gift to treasure in the future.

    • Jenna–Great to hear from you on WORDWALK!  What a treasured comment you have added to this post!  Please tell Harper that I said “Hello!”

      Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

      More soon–Alice and Willow

  2. I love hearing your memories, Alice, and am grateful for God’s gift of remembering. I remember looking at my own hands on the steering wheel years ago and wondered, “What are my mother’s hands doing on my steering wheel?!” Aging hands in grandmothers, mothers, and even ourselves reflect past times of what was done with these hands.
    On another note, regarding a previous post, our black lab/golden, Ember, comes immediately when she hears the first note on our piano. She lies down at my feet, often very close to or blocking the soft pedal, and stays there until I close the keyboard. I love her company.

    • Good morning, Linda–Many thanks for reading this post and sharing a wonderful comment!  How nice of you to sign up again to follow my blog and give this post a “like”!  Your comment about hands brings back to my mind my realizing that I had acquired my maternal grandmother’s hands.  Also, I do appreciate your telling the anecdote about Ember’s enjoying your piano playing.  I smile at picturing in my mind the beautiful scene.

      So thankful for your friendship–Alice and Willow

  3. Dear Alice,
    So thankful that you shared loving memories of our earliest Thanksgiving dinners in our Grandma Store’s kitchen and our Aunt Zita’s restaurant as well as the touching poem about our Grandma Farm’s amazing hands! I remember that games were a special part of Thanksgiving Day with our mother seeming to be in charge of entertaining all the cousins. With us little ones sitting with hands together in our laps, Mother played “Button, Button, who’s go the button?” In later years at Aunt Zita’s restaurant, the afternoons were filled with card games, like “Euchre.” What fun we had!
    Wishing you and Willow many blessings this Thanksgiving holiday!

    • Mary–Thank you for adding some of your recollections to this post.  Oh, yes, our family was blessed with many happy and bountiful Thanksgivings!

      Enjoy your Thanksgiving in Colorado!

      Alice and Willow

  4. Katherine Binole permalink

    Alice, I was so touched by the beautiful poem filled with memories of my mother. She was a strong hardworking and loving mother and grandmother. I remember how she entertained the little ones making a mouse out of a handkerchief and seemingly moving it up her arm. They watched with wide eyes and giggles. I enjoyed the memories of Thanksgivings at grandma store and mom Zita’s.
    Thank you for your memories. Have a blessed Thanksgiving. Love, Aunt Kathy

    • Hi, Aunt Kathy–How nice to have your comments on this post! Special thanks for sharing your thoughts!  How I do remember Grandma’s mouse made from a handkerchief!  Although I learned how to make such a mouse, only Grandma could thoroughly entertain the little ones with this homemade toy.  How blessed we were for so many years with so many family members gathered around our Thanksgiving table!

      Thinking of you this Thanksgiving and always!

      Love, Alice and Willow

  5. Francetta Rayce permalink

    Dear Alice,

    I love this piece about the hands of your hardworking, ever busy, grandmother. She sounds like the many dedicated farm women of her generation. Your words, and the contrasting ideas, paint clear pictures in my mind and remind me of similar scenes from my childhood. One of pieces of my own writing I like best is a story poem about my dad’s hands, so the topic is dear to me. What stories hands can tell.

    One day we’ll need to explore more of the hand games that you played with your grandmother. I’m wondering if there are others that were the same ones we were taught.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and to Willow. I hope it is a peace filled, restful day.


    • Hello, Fran–Many thanks to you for reading this post and sharing your thoughts!  Oh, yes, hands do tell a life story:  sometime, I would enjoy having the opportunity to read the poem about your dad’s hands.

          This Thanksgiving, I am so grateful that our paths and friendship crossed again for several months in Michigan.

      Blessings, good health, and much happiness to you and your family this Thanksgiving!

      Best always, Alice and Willow

  6. Lovely. My memories of grandma’s hands were making the rat! Does anyone still know how to make the rat? I feel like my kids have missed out! LOL. Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you and Willow enjoy your first Thanksgiving in your new/old place! XXOO Gina

    • Hi, Gina–Many thanks for reading and commenting on this post! I hope to get back with you about directions for making the mouse. Thanks for bringing this memory! Happy and healthy Thanksgiving to you and your family! Alice and Willow

  7. Nancy Buckner permalink

    This is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

    • Hi, Nancy–Many thanks for reading this post and sending a comment!  So very nice to hear from you on WORDWALK!

      Happy and healthy wishes to all of you for a wonderful Thanksgiving in Arizona!

      Best to all–Alice and Willow

  8. Joyce boltz permalink

    Finally found your blog. Thanksgiving will be different this year, but we have the wonderful memories of previous family gatherings. We are now having our exercise classes via zoom here at CRC. I miss seeing you and Willow on my walks. Wishing you a “ Happy Thanksgiving “.

    • Hi, Joyce–How wonderful to find your nice comment today! I will e-mail you soon. Meanwhile, best wishes for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving! We missyou also. Alice and Willow

  9. Susan M McKendry permalink

    Always enjoy reading about your hard-working family. Memories are dear, especially this year when many of us are not surrounded by family. We will go it alone, also. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Willow.

    • Sue–Always so good to hear from you!  Many thanks for your comment and note.

      Best wishes for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving to you and John!

      Talk with you soon–Alice and Willow

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