BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — Holiday memories are as unique as each individual they belong to. Whether it’s the smell of mincemeat, picking out new holiday dresses and shoes, the taste of a Waldorf salad or even an extra-large wheel of cheese, the pull of holiday traditions is strong.
At Kingston Residence in Perrysburg, it’s important to the residents and the staff that everyone maintain what traditions they can and embrace new ones when they need to.
Theresa Ellis, a Kingston resident, is the youngest of seven kids. Her father died when she was a few months old, so her mother cared for all seven children, baking to make ends meet.
While baked goods were a familiar sight throughout her entire childhood, she remembers it was the holidays that called for every kind of pie to line the counters.
“My favorite thing was baking all the pies, getting them ready,” Theresa said. “My mother had seven children, so we had to have a lot of pie … she made pumpkin, she made lemon, she made apple. When she did all of this, I couldn’t tell you, because I don’t think the woman ever slept. We had a big counter in the kitchen and when she was done, she’d have all these pies lined up.”
The only pie her family didn’t have was mincemeat. Her family didn’t care for that.
Kingston resident John Searle, though, thought hard about his childhood Thanks-giving memories and the one that came to mind was, of course, the smell of mincemeat.
“I grew up in Shelby, down by Mansfield, and our church I think at Thanksgiving time, the women always made homemade mincemeat. Oh, the church smelled like mincemeat. They did it all in the church kitchen and sold it by the quart jar,” John said.
His memories of Thanks-giving, he said, are typically of a coon lodge, where his wife, Jan, and her family would meet. The weather was a big factor in their plans for the holiday, too.
“Some Thanksgivings were warm. Some, we had 6 inches of snow on the ground. Sometimes, the guys were outside playing football in short sleeves, sometimes they were bundled up and stayed inside. But, oh, it was a big family day,” John said.
Thanksgiving memories with his wife and four sons are what stick out to John. For Kingston resident Carl Saylor, it’s the memories with his wife, Barb, and four daughters that come forth when he thinks of Thanksgiving.
“I had a family of four daughters and the thing I remember about it is making sure they all had new dresses and were all dressed up for Thanksgiving,” Carl said.
Getting dressed up was a big deal, he said. His daughters needed new dresses and sometimes hats and coats, depending on the weather.
Everybody used to dress up for the holidays, Theresa said. She doesn’t remember anybody wearing jeans to a holiday gathering, and her family, she recalled, had plenty of holiday gatherings.
Her family would come together at her home, her siblings returning from wherever they were living, and they would say grace before the meal, and when the meal was over, they’d sit together for a while before eating their dessert later in the day.
Family, she said, is the most important part of any holiday. It’s the one thing Theresa wants to hold on to. Food, though, is still important at her holiday gatherings, too, and no Thanksgiving is complete without a Waldorf salad.
“I make a fantastic Waldorf salad,” she said. “I found a recipe years and years ago in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine. My recipe is made with whipped cream and mayo – Hellman’s, not Miracle Whip.”
Also in her recipe are two cups of yellow delicious and two cups of red delicious apples, chopped pecans or walnuts and a banana, but the banana can’t go in until the very end. Marshmallows also make an appearance.
John, on the other hand, is partial to pumpkin pie – warmed up, with lots of whipped cream. He’s always loved pumpkin pie, he said.
“A long time ago, when I came back from school about Thanksgiving Day, my mother had cooked two pumpkin pies, and nobody was in the kitchen and there they were. So, I’m hungry, I cut off a big hunk,” John recalled. “They were for a party, not for us. Too late, then!”
When thinking about Thanksgiving food, Carl is brought back to his time in the Army in Germany in 1951. To celebrate the holiday, the troops he was with went to a local orphanage and played games and fed the local children. It reminded him to be grateful for everything he had, as many of the children would often search for scraps of the soldiers’ food after meal times.
“We just played games with them and fed them and had a ball,” Carl said. “We enjoyed it because we were away from home. It just reminded us; they didn’t have anything.”
Now, when thinking about Thanksgiving food, Carl knows this year, he’s getting a turkey dinner from his church, Memorial United Church of Christ. It’s something his church has been doing for more than 60 years, and it’s a tradition he doesn’t plan to stop.
Traditions have to adapt over time, the residents at Kingston have learned. Some residents who used to host Thanksgiving are now guests in their children’s homes for the holidays. Other residents have their favorite meals brought to them instead of going out to get them. However, the staff at Kingston aims to keep as many traditions alive as possible.
Activities director Amanda Burrow said the staff accepts residents’ recipes to make sure they have their favorite food on the table when they can.
“We also do the full Thanksgiving meal. They have all the fixings. It’s all homemade,” Amanda said.
As for Theresa, one tradition is a bit bittersweet to leave behind.
Before it closed in 1972, Theresa had worked for many years at Tiedtke’s, a grocery and department store in Toledo. Thanksgiv-ing meant it was time to break out the several thousand-pound wheel of cheese. She then spent each holiday season selling it off in pieces.
Customers, she recalled, would be lined up out the door, and she had to work as fast as possible to get each piece wrapped and sold leading up to Christmas.
Thanksgiving has been a marker for Christmas sales at the stores, both then and now, but for the residents at Kingston, it’s a marker of another day to celebrate with their family and the friends they’ve made at Kingston.
“I’d like to tell everyone that everybody at the Kingston wishes everybody (else) a very, very blessed Thanksgiving,” Theresa said.