Sunday, November 25, 2012

Over the River



It is 6:30 A.M. on Thanksgiving morning. The sun is coming up over the village of Fort Plain, with a wide wedge of bright pink high in a robin’s-egg-blue sky. It is 28 ยบ Fahrenheit outside, and quiet except for the barking of a dog down the street. As the sky grows lighter, the town clock rings seven times, as it has for over a hundred years.

As far back as I can remember, we used to come over the river and through the woods to feast on turkey and stuffing with four generations of Grandma Minnie’s extended family. This year, those of us who have inherited the old homestead  --  the younger generation that has now become the older generation  --  have decided to revive the family tradition of Thanksgiving at the family home. Brother and Sister are bringing the stuffing and other trimmings, Daughter is bringing pie, and yours truly is cooking the turkey.

Path up the hill
While the turkey sizzles in the oven, I take a walk up the winding path to the top of the hill at the edge of the cemetery. With most of the leaves gone from the trees, I can see over the river to the other side of the wide valley. Thousands of years ago, the spot where I am standing was the bank of the mighty Iro-Mohawk River formed from the melting of the glaciers. Now it is a steep terrace that affords a panoramic view of the neighborhood and the ridge across the river:

View across the river from the cemetery ridge
Along that ridge, Native Americans built their palisaded villages, later Palatine Germans spread their farms, and yet later an early 20th century aviator landed his plane.


Great-Grandpa Fred and horse Maud
I look down at the house and see in my mind’s eye the barn where Great-Grandpa Fred kept his horse a hundred years ago, and the woodshed where fifty years ago my childhood self shed her boots when we arrived for the Thanksgiving feast. The barn and the woodshed are both gone now. Gone as well are most of the people who gathered around the table that half-century ago, buried only a few feet from where I stand as I look down at the house and over the river.

The house seems smaller than it did to me as a child, but of course everything seemed larger when I was small. This home and its earlier inhabitants shaped some of my most vivid childhood memories. Now, coming home to another Thanksgiving has given our family an opportunity to shape some new memories with today’s younger generation. 

The table laid with this year's feast

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