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Clyde, Time Was: Of waste, waists and Thanksgivings gone by

Time was, we all sat down in the chairs around a table for Turkey dinner. Everyone had their own chair, no matter how many extra chairs you had to go find and “pull up.” Kids had their own card table with little chairs.

Romans reclined or “sat down” on a cathedra, drinking wine with servants. Not much different with Barcaloungers, coffee tables, crumbs in the sofa and beer on call.

Nutritionally you can survive seven days and nights without food or water. That would make you thankful.

Don’t bring ball caps, bottles of water, aluminum cans or a Styrofoam cup with lipstick on it to the dinner table, and your place setting should not include a cellphone beside the salad fork. Cloth napkins, please. Thanksgiving “supper” takes 18 hours to prepare and 11 minutes to consume. Gulp!

Speaking of waste, women are never going to be 36-24-36 again. They had stays, darts, gores, gussets, corsets and girdles and zippers to make clothes skin tight.

“For an informal dinner, a plain white linen blouse with wide scooped neckline is tucked in the high waistband of the embroidered navy blue linen flared skirt. Deeper blue lace is appliqued in points around the waistline, asserting ‘slimness,’” said a Citizen Times newspaper  report in 1958.

Guys simply put another notch in their belt to hide their dewlap. “Your eyes were bigger than your stomach” has no meaning with the size of today’s stomachs. Give it a rest. What exactly is a gizzard and where is it located? Do you put it in giblet gravy or do you say jiblet? Pass the liver plate, de foie gras. Ask to be excused. Leave your napkin in your chair if you plan to remember to return to save your seat.

Chairs were meant to fit at a table. Chairs have legs and feet. Name something else inanimate that does. Beds have footboards, but not feet, and posts, but not legs. Some chairs have arms so you don’t fall out. High chairs brought you “up” to the table. Slipper chairs were low to the ground for ground work. Old people had handmade “cheers” with their own oak splint bottoms that you could “fall through” if you weren’t “kerfal” and you didn’t get quiet, behave and “set” up straight at the table. Every period and style had a chair to match, from Chippendale to mid-century modern. Wingback chairs are the best for naps.

The phrase “room and board” comes from the wide boards on the table where you ate. The side board (board on the side of the room for serving) groaned with side dishes. The hunt board (on the back porch for dressing game) and the corner cupboard (for handling cups) stored the tableware. The mantel board (over the hearth) had a portrait of Ben Franklin who wanted the turkey to be the national bird.

Pilgrims had Indian guests. Did they get an e-mail invitation or just show up to pillage and plunder a 4,000-calorie smorgasbord? How many of them couldn’t eat because they were vegetarians, vegan, lactose intolerant, diabetic, celiac on a gluten-free diet, had a peanut allergy or were allergic to any number of things in corn pudding? Don’t tell us about it, just don’t eat it or order it, or just scoot it to the side of your plate. A clean plate is a compliment to the cook. Seconds are rewards. The threat of starving Ethiopians never convinced you to eat the dark meat first. Leftovers were the best; with some people, they still are. How far have we come to be so ungrateful on the day of giving?

Did they complain about the service or skip out without paying or giving a simple “thank you” to the hostess? Anthony Fisher, who helped at the Salvation Army, says you can divide the people of the world into two categories; help me and help you. Which side do you fall on? There but for the grace of God, go I.

“Let the vineyards be fruitful, O Lord, and fill to the brim our cup of blessings. Gather a harvest from the seeds that we have sown so that we may be fed from the bread of life. Gather our hopes and our dreams and unite them with the prayers we now offer. Grace us with your presence at our table, Lord, and give us a foretaste of the feast to come. Amen.”

Push up your chair when you leave the table.

Clyde is a Salisbury artist.

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