Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - November 25, 2016

Thankful for the four Es

For the past quarter-century, husband Art and I have hosted Thanksgiving Day meals for family members and friends. The tradition began in 1992, when I came home from the hospital with our newborn daughter Katie. Her birth was two days before the holiday, and Art surprised me by having a full traditional Thanksgiving meal ready.

Over the years, we’ve had small, quiet gatherings with adults only and large, boisterous groups with young children. Art says his job is to prepare the meal and he doesn’t care whether we have three or 30. This year, we were an even dozen and we also celebrated Katie’s 24th birthday.

But as I was cleaning the house and putting out decorations for the big day, I reflected more than I usually do on the Thanksgivings of my youth. This special day was always shared with Mom’s family. Some years, my parents loaded brother Dave, sister Gaila and me into the car and off we went to Grandpa and Grandma Mostrom’s house. Other years, we went to Uncle Bud and Aunt Edith’s place. Those trips were just a little over an hour, but I usually slept either going or coming or sometimes both. I remember singing “Over the river and through the woods ...” on what I considered to be a long journey.

Grandma died when I was young, so I don’t recall her coming to our home on Thanksgiving Day. But over the years, we did take turns and I remember Grandpa, Bud and Edith and their children, Ron and Linda, being with us on our farm.

Sometimes we’d have ham and other years it would be turkey. When Edith made a turkey, I always looked forward to the stuffing because she made it with raisins. I liked the sweetness mixed with the savory taste. We kids always managed to stay out of the kitchen - probably because Mom and Edith shooed us out - or more likely, because we didn’t want to be assigned clean-up duty.

Linda also has fond memories of those times.

I remember our talkative mothers enjoyed sharing teaching stories, the latest attempt at crafting and recipes. Christmas was the most favorite time of the year for my mother, probably for your mother as well. They both loved creating Swedish foods and passing on their cultural traditions. The “quieter” fathers were happy to visit about farming or the latest news. Then they would settle in for a sporting event on television and perhaps an after-dinner nap.

Although most men of that generation did not spend much time cooking, my dad did dabble in culinary skills. He became quite proficient at making a special pecan pie for the holidays.

Often the four of them would participate in a rousing card game of pitch or perhaps a popular board game with us “kids” to add to the fun of the day.

Overall, their love of family and enjoyment of the holiday season is something that I value now and will pass along to the next generation. As I look at old photo albums or treasured family decorations this time of year, I certainly have fond memories of days gone by spent with my parents and yours. What a special quartet!

That "quartet" had a special name for themselves. They were the four Es - from my parents Edla and Edgar, and from Edith and Ellis, Bud’s given name.

When the weather was nice, we five kids would find things to do outside. At Bud and Edith’s, Gaila, Linda and I played out in the wooded area along Big John Creek that ran behind the house. Dave and Ron explored or, when they were older, hunted for pheasants and quail or played one-on-one basketball.

As we kids married and started having children of our own, the number of tables and the amount of food increased. Edith and Bud were thrilled to have great-nieces and nephews join the fun, often emphasizing that they were now GREAT Aunt Edith and GREAT Uncle Bud.

Of course, the four Es got together at other times of the year as well. It was not unusual for Sunday drives to end at the other's home.

After Bud died in November of 1999 and Dad in November of 2002, the two sisters still got together. I’d take Mom to Council Grove to visit Edith or Edith would make arrangements to come to Manhattan and spend a day or two. If they were together when Art’s mother Donna came to visit from Wisconsin, she’d add to the fun. Being more than ten years older, she'd call them spring chickens.

A few years ago, Mom and I went to Council Grove to see the outdoor play “Voices of the Wind People” about the history of the Kaw Indians and white settlers in the area. Edith insisted we stay in her small one-bedroom apartment and that we sleep in her bed while she slept on the couch.

Two years ago, Art and I took Edith, Mom and Mom’s friend Stan to the Swedish dinner in Olsburg, Kansas. The entire time the two sisters talked about Swedish customs and told family stories.

With both the sisters being in their 90s, we knew we could lose one at any time. Still, it never occurred to any of the family that last Thanksgiving would be their last. Mom died in February and Edith died a little more than two months later. Mom’s death was hard on Edith as she was always the older protective sister.

Those Thanksgivings of old with the four Es were missed more than usual this year. Yet I’m thankful we had them as long as we did. They lived long, productive, happy lives, and they gave all of us wonderful memories to share, not just on Thanksgiving, but throughout the year.

The four Es and their children. left-to-right: Linda, Bud, Ron, Edith, Gloria, Edgar, Gaila, Dave and Edla.

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