|My Aunt Jan on the left, my mom on the right, me front left, Mimi and my sister Meri on the right.|
As yet another Thanksgiving Day approaches I have somehow managed to take a quick trip down memory lane. While you can’t ask for a better holiday than Halloween (knocking on doors for free candy? I love who ever thought of that one) it’s really Thanksgiving that holds some of my fondest memories.
Every year my Great-Grandmother Mimi (Marie Bendel) sent my mom and her sister (Aunt Jan) plane tickets for all of us to fly to Monroe, Louisiana to visit for the holiday.
This is back in the 70s and 80s and at that time when you boarded a plane, you were welcomed. If I recall correctly, we mostly flew Delta. Let me tell you as a young girl, there was nothing more special than being served a Coke on an airplane. (I put it on the flimsy tray and promptly spilled it every year). I always traveled in my favorite dress.
When we arrived to the house, (this was the smaller house that Mimi moved to when they sold The House on Loop Road) we were welcomed with open arms. I really cant ever remember my great-grandmother say “no” or mentioning something was “off limits” in her house for my sister, Meri and me. Meri and I stayed in her bedroom which was special for us. Meri on the 2nd twin bed, me on a cot (oh the joys of being the youngest). Mimi had a chaise lounge in her room that was always filled from top to bottom with toys. At night Mimi said The Lord’s Prayer and we joined her. If someone got hurt, Mimi said to put the tears in a cup. I cant remember why (something about not wasting the tears) but I do remember on occasion a small Dixie cup with a few tears on her dresser.
We spent the holiday together as a family. Mom mom and Aunt Jan always brought projects to work on….needlepoint, sewing, cross stitch,knitting, crochet, macrame & latch hook (when it was popular). I remember one year my mom hand sewed these beautiful ornaments that were the “good” ones used for the Christmas tree in the living room.
The house was filled with love and warmth and the smell of delicious food. The housekeeper was an amazing cook and to this day I recall the taste of the unbelievable homemade rolls she made. I would give my last dollar for the recipe. The menu was the same every year- what I remember most is the Waldorf salad, turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy & “greens” (these were actually collard greens served in a small bowl and my sister and I promptly passed ours down to my mom and my Aunt. (If you havent’ had the pleasure, they are very bitter and an acquired taste)
The house was filled with beautiful things – many of which I am lucky enough to have in my house today, including one of my most prized possessions, my dinning room table. There was always Doublemint Gum (the big long value pack) in the desk drawer and boxes of Russell Stover Candy. A bowl of large fresh Pecans was on the coffee table. Mimi kept Doublemint Gum in the car too and would have my sister and I chew a piece so we would stay quiet while she crossed the busy intersection to the toy store. Mimi kept these hard round candies that came in a tin in the drawer of the living room coffee table along with her playing cards. My mom has the table and keeps a small tin of candy in there too – touching to carry on that tradition.
Every year Mimi treated us to a shopping spree. Another dream for a young girl. We started at the toy store and were able to get “anything we wanted”.
Next up there was this beautiful children’s boutique call Kelso’s Children’s Shop on Desiar Street. Mimi had an account there and again we were offered the opportunity to get what whatever we wanted. (my mom being wise did set a limit for us). First up for me was a new pair of Mary Jane’s. I love the shiny patent leather and the strap across the front. I got them every year.
When we arrived back at Mimi’s house, I would wear them in the bathroom and dance making horrific black marks on the floor. No one ever said a word. The bathrooms had a gas heaters in them so you could warm up the bathroom when you took a bath. Heaven. Mimi always had a big box of Cologne that made the water so soft. Her bathroom drawer was filled with make up and soap that smelled like roses.
My Great- Grandfather, William L. Bendel was a doctor. He was well loved and respected and very active in the community. Even after he passed away, the community maintained the same level of respect and gratitude toward Mimi. She was always addressed as “Mrs. Bendel” in a heavy southern drawl. Everyone in the town knew her and to say she was treated like royalty would be a gross understatement.
In the early 80s, Mimi took us to a local Wendy’s. Upon arrival, she sat down at one of the tables. We kinda chucked and kindly explained to Mimi that this type of restaurant is “fast food”. You order at the register and carry your food to the table. “No” said Mimi. “Just have a seat and someone will come by to take our order”. We were a bit embarrassed. But sure enough with in 30 seconds someone came by “Good evening Mrs. Bendel….”. It just shows the gratitude the community had for Mimi and my great-grandfather even after so many years.
On Thanksgiving day, Mimi, my sister and I would watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on the sofa, under a blanket with hot chocolate on Mimi’s big Zenith TV. I remember the TV mostly because it had a remote control. At that time, no one had a remote control – you actually had to get up to change a channel. It was breaking technology.
Mimi also loved flowers. She had a “vase room” as we called it. As I mentioned in a blog here we would go out to her back yard and cut fresh Magnolia’s and then go to the “vase room” to select the perfect vase. It was part of our tradition and we loved it.
The house was busy and warm. It smelled of delicious food. In the morning fresh bacon was made (yes, I loved bacon back then). It would sit on the stove in the kitchen and I remember everyone grab a piece right off the skillet. Mimi’s friends always dropped by to say “hello”. Many were the ladies she played cards with every week. Some were long time friends and patients of my great-grandfather’s who would just come by to say “hello”, “Happy Thanksgiving” and to see how Mimi was doing.
If you have read this far, then I am thankful for you and your continued support of my blog and small business that continues to grow.
I hope you have the opportunity to create lasting memories this Thanksgiving!