Growing up, one of my favorite books to read was Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende Devlin. Published in January 1971, ten months before my birth, it represents something that has always been a part of my life. I even consider it to be one of the central elements in my development as a human being.
I am glad to see that it has been reissued and available to children today. Purple House Press released it in hardback September 2012. Now that I have a granddaughter, guess what her Pappy is going to be reading to her every Thanksgiving when she comes to visit? Yep.
The tale revolves around Grandmother and (I have always assumed) her granddaughter Maggie. Grandmother loves Thanksgiving and preparing the feast. And she and Maggie always invite someone to dinner—Grandmother always insists it be someone poor or lonely. So, Maggie asks the “unsavory” Mr. Whiskers. Grandmother invites a traveling business man spending the holiday away from his home.
Grandmother is worried that Mr. Whiskers has designs on stealing the recipe to her secret and world-renowned cranberry bread. Things aren’t always what they appear to be.
And that is why I have always considered the book to be an important part of my development as a human being. Always be nice. Never look down on someone less fortunate than yourself. Lift people up rather than put them down. And big corporations can be heartless.
It must have worked. Ten years ago, I asked a woman with whom I graduated high school if she was going to attend the 20th reunion. She said no because everyone was always mean to her, and she didn’t expect it to change. I was stunned and said that I hoped she didn’t think that of me. Her reply made my chest swell with pride—not an arrogant pride, but that good feeling you get when you have done right and made someone’s life better. She told me, “No, JC. You are the nicest person I have ever met in my life.”
That became a teaching moment for my own children: Always be nice because everyone will remember you for good and not ill.
Another reason I loved the book is because it printed the “secret” recipe for Grandmother’s Cranberry Bread. Each Thanksgiving—even after I had moved out and started life on my own—I would ask my mother to make it. She missed a few years due to illness and such, but I grew up with it as a tradition.
It has now become a Thanksgiving mainstay in my household, and I make it every year. Now that I have a grandchild, perhaps it will become Pappy’s Cranberry Bread…
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope you enjoy the time with your friends and families. Don’t forget to invite someone to dinner.
WHAT I’M UP TO
WRITING: November is in full swing…National Novel Writing Month. I have been to several write-ins (excuses to gather with other writers in coffee houses) where we pound away at the keyboard for 15-minute writing sprints, and then talk and visit and gossip over the next 15 minutes. Bishop, the first novel in the planned A Dark History series, is moving along nicely. Since it is a historical horror, there have been scary moments and spooky events galore. Additionally, I am putting together twenty or so of the poems I’ve written over the last two years to submit to the Waters Edge chapbook contest.
FICTION: I completed The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell. This shared world takes place where using magic has consequences: Brambles. Thorny vines that overtake everything and are poisonous to humans. The poison puts you in a coma should you get enough of it in your system. Now I am midway through Marina Lostetter’s science-fiction Noumenon. How do you reach a distant star that will take a millennia to reach? Send clones. Original concept—I haven’t read it before—that has been intriguing. The story deals with betrayal, revolution, depression, and just trying to understand where you fit in the scheme of things. Very relative terms in everyday life.
NONFICTION: I’ve yet to start it, but I picked up Island of the Lost by Joan Druett. It seems that in the distant past, two ships wrecked at two different ends of Aukland Island, 285 miles south of New Zealand. They were only twenty miles from each other. One crew flourished, built a forge and other necessities to survive. The other crew fell into chaos and resorted at one point even to cannibalism.
TELEVISION: We finished up the series Carnival Row on Amazon earlier this week. It was an urban fantasy presented as a neo-noir detective story with political intrigue and tragic relationships all tied up. Slow building in parts, it was enjoyable and has already been renewed for a second season. It stars Orlando Bloom, who also produces, and Cara Delevingne in the starring roles. I love the mishmash of genres: detective, fantasy, Irish mythology, and even some tributes to H.P. Lovecraft horror thrown in.
MOVIES: I re-watched the 2009 Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law starring film Sherlock Holmes. “Tony Stark” played the titular detective, while Mr. Law took on the mantle of his confident Dr. Watson. Seems Lord Henry Blackwood, played by Mark Strong, doesn’t want to stay dead and wants to conquer the world instead—even if it means coming back from the grave. Loved it back then, and it has aged well. Downey did such a good job, you don’t really see any resemblance to his most famous character of Tony Stark/Ironman. I hear a third movie will be coming in 2012.
THANKSGIVING: Probably my favorite holiday is next week. Looking forward to stuffing my face with good food and visiting with better friends and family. Hey…I’ve lost 14 pounds over the last five months…there’s room for the turkey and cherry pie…and the cranberry bread.