By Judy Reiss
I have always loved Halloween and when I hear about people who do fun and fantastic things I am always sad because I do absolutely nothing! I like to give myself a break by reminding myself that I am old and also don’t have much of an imagination anymore. But if you are one of those people who go to town with fantastic costumes and creepy houses, I say yea and good for you! I am sure that when the children in your neighborhood grow up you will be front and center in their imaginations for Halloween past!
Now that Halloween is past and the costumes are put away and probably a big bag of candy has been consumed, it is time to think about Thanksgiving. For the past 35-40 years I have written about Thanksgiving and compared it with our holiday today. And most of us don’t think about what an amazingly miserable time it must have been. Especially for the women! Actually times haven’t changed all that much!
Back in those days, the men were the hunters and the gathers and along with their friends and neighbors, spent a few days gathering venison, turkeys, oysters and just about anything that was edible for a big feast. The women picked the vegetables that they grew in their gardens and then, of course, prepared them. When the men came back to the village, they gave the women what meat they caught and the long and tedious task of cooking their feast began. Now I know that some of you are good BBQers and deep in your heart you feel like a pilgrim. Cooking outdoors over a grill is a lot harder than putting your game into an oven. Right? But let’s think about it in what was during those days “real time.”
The men invited the Native Americans in order to thank them for helping them plant certain crops and teaching them how to live through the winter months. And now they relaxed, smoked their pipes, had a little hard cider and took it easy. And here is my favorite part. The women were now in charge. They had to cook whatever had been given to them and not in an Easy Bake Oven. No, they had an open fireplace that really wasn’t very big. And regardless of the weather, they had to squat down and keep everything cooking. Not just the huge turkeys or a deer haunch either. Nope, somehow they had to prepare the meat, fix their vegetable so they were edible, and of course, keep the bread coming. And this is my favorite part. Every single woman and a girl had to wear a long to the packed dirt, skirt. And under the skirt they wore several layers of petticoats. Keep in mind these outfits weren’t for attractiveness either. And each woman probably only had two outfits. One for daily use and if they were lucky one for church.
So here we have the woman of the house cooking under extremely primitive conditions and if they were lucky they weren’t pregnant. However they always had a toddler or two wrapped around their legs which made squatting around the fire and cooking a harder chore than it had to be.
And now comes the amazing part to me. Not only were the women wearing long wet and nasty skirts, they had no opportunity to change into a pair of pants and get dry and comfortable. Can you imagine nary a pair of pants? Compared to those women, life is good now!
Now that the food is done and all the courses are prepared, the men all gathered around, found their places and thanked God for their bounty and their blessings. And then they ate. And what about the women you ask? Well, if they had a loving husband who was also generous, she got the scraps off the table that the men didn’t eat.! Wouldn’t you think that after all the preparation and time consumed cooking, cleaning, preparing the festive table and keeping the baby and toddler from catching on fire, she might be able to sit down and at least eat something? Nope, if they were able to snatch a few scraps and eat quickly and quietly, she had to clean up after the men and of course, keep them happy after all their hard work hunting…and eating!
The pilgrims certainly didn’t have time to give thanks for anything except being alive. However, it is my opinion that the men should kneel down and give thanks for the wife, daughter or indentured servant woman that they had who made their lives bearable.
When you sit down to your table, take a minute to think about those hearty people who carved a life out of the cold and barren sands. And also take a minute to think about the women, in their long, uncomfortable skirts. And it might be a good thing to give thanks to Elizabeth Smith Miller who was the first women to actually wear trousers. And of course every one knows about Amelia Bloomer. We might laugh today but can you imagine Thanksgiving or any other holiday or any day without being able to wear parts? God bless those women who paved the way for us. Today would be a whole lot different if skirts and dresses were the costumes of the day!
So, if you are a man, be sure to thank your wife, mother or woman for all she does for you and your family. And if you are a women be sure and be appreciative and graceful for all you have. Cooking in a nice pair of pants, on a loving stove in your amazing kitchen does make it easier remember you could be squatting in front of a fire and beating the sparks out of your skirt before you burst into flames like a torch.
Have a very Happy Thanksgiving and don’t forget to give thanks!