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The Holidays

~by Mark Blackwell


can remember celebrating the holidays all the way back in the 1950s. Now, I’m hearing that just about anything from that time is referred to as “mid-century modern.” The 1950s were nothing if not modern. It was a time when our culture was racing as fast as it could into the future, so as to put as much distance between the sorrows of World War II and the Great Depression and the “Now.” The era of the 1950s and ’60s started out being the Jet Age, overlaid with the Atom Age, and then quickly morphed into the Space Age. My own personal nuclear family (that’s a little nod to the Atom Age) was somewhat more traditional than modern. In fact, our house was 100% furnished in the “Early American” style. We even had pots and pans in the

34 Our Brown County • Nov./Dec. 2021

kitchen labeled “Revere Ware.” We had “Ethan Allen” furniture. Paul Revere and Ethan Allen would have felt right at home there. When Christmas came around we had to have a real tree—the bigger the better with Early American decorations. But I do remember an Uncle and Aunt had jumped on the rocket to modernity. They were the first people, I knew, who invested in a shiny aluminum tree with monochrome baubles and a tri-color projector which, with the room lights turned off, produced an early version of a psychedelic experience. As time passed, I went to the University where I majored in having a good time and protesting the war de jour and consequently I flunked out. Having flunked out, I lost my college deferment and wound up being sent to the afore mentioned war. Well, I didn’t kill anybody and they didn’t kill me. I came home but home wasn’t the same. Or, maybe I wasn’t the same. I wanted life, the universe, and everything in it to start having a little more substance and meaning. I figured that the only way that would happen is if I gave it more meaning. It was hard to know where to start. It wasn’t too long before I got married and then it wasn’t too long before we had a set of young’uns. Having kids has a way of concentrating a person’s attention. As a new parent I began to think in terms of traditions. I was more and more convinced that doing things and making things was the secret to having more meaning and substance in life. Holidays sort of amplified those feelings. I mean, a turkey TV dinner was not gonna cut it when it came to holiday feasting. When Thanksgiving rolls around, there is no substitute for a house full of family and friends for a traditional feast. My memories are built around the smells and tastes of slow-cooked, home canned green beans with onions, pickled beets, mashed potatoes, persimmon pudding made with wild gathered ’simmons—and, of course, the king of the table, the turkey.