If you’re in the mood to read some entertaining Thanksgiving stories, you’re in luck. This coming Wednesday, the Herald-Citizen will publish its biggest newspaper of the year. Estimates are that it will weigh close to four pounds. In addition to regular news and features and lots of advertising, the paper will also contain a “Thanksgiving supplement.”
That’s the part I plan to grab first.
Because along with the usual dozens and dozens of recipes and “How to Cook a Turkey” instructions and illustrations from area first graders, the supplement will also contain stories from the “Mining Your Memories” class I lead at First United Methodist Church. We’ve been meeting once a week since September and I’ve been blown away not only by the class members’ writing talent but also by the fascinating stories they have to share.
Every week, I offer a prompt. For example, WRITE ABOUT A HALLOWEEN COSTUME. We brainstorm silently for a few minutes and then share ideas. Class members go home and write their stories, which they read aloud during the next class. The stories they shared a month ago were entertaining enough to give me an idea. If this newspaper was planning some special Halloween pages, might our stories be included?
The answer was no. There wouldn’t be a supplement for Halloween. But editors were putting together a whopper of one for Thanksgiving. “Mining Your Memories” was invited to be part of it.
When I shared this happy news with the class, most were delighted and immediately began working on their stories. A few opted out, saying they just couldn’t come up with anything to write about. Others didn’t want their stories published. We ultimately ended up with eight stories and several accompanying photographs. I turned them over to Herald-Citizen staffer Amy Davis (thanks, Amy!) and look forward to seeing the artful way she’s edited and laid them out on the page.
Not wanting to limit ourselves to too confining a prompt—WRITE ABOUT TURKEY or WRITE ABOUT PILGRIMS, for example—class members eventually decided to simply write about Thanksgiving.
I urged them to narrow their focus, to avoid trite sentimentality, and to work hard on grabbing readers’ attention with the opening sentence. My favorite leads? “Knives are dangerous.” And “ ‘I think I’m going to throw up,’ my sister announced.” How can you not keep reading stories that begin that way?
Traditional Thanksgiving food—golden brown turkey, cornbread dressing, sweet potato casserole, rice and gravy, cranberry relish, yeast rolls, and pumpkin pie—shows up in many of the stories. But there’s also plenty of not-so-typical fare. Stuffed chicken. Banquet brand too-long-frozen chocolate cream pie. Whiskey sours.
A couple of the stories are set around Grandma’s dining room table. But not all. One takes place at a military academy. Another in Japan. Still another in a rustic log cabin. And if you think they’re all about food, think again. There’s a story with a wedding in it. Another is a cat tale. Hair mousse plays an integral role in yet another. And without giving too much away, let me just say that on a certain Thanksgiving Day in Ohio a long time ago, a beautifully set dining room table morphed into something else entirely.
Becky, Diane, Ed, Heather, Joan, Nita, Patty, Tricia and I hope you enjoy the stories. And we wish you and yours the happiest of Thanksgivings.
(November 18, 2012.)