A Thanksgiving Sewing Circle

Mary E. Wilkins, in the New York World.

From Republican Watchman November 23, 1900

The week before Thanksgiving the sewing circle in our village met at Mrs. Nathan Tucker's and there was a full meeting, though everybody was very busy cooking for Thanksgiving.

The Tucker house was redolent with spice and mincemeat. Mrs. Tucker had told several confidentially that she did not know how to have the circle. The members were most of them late, with the exception of Rebecca Todd. She is a widow and lives alone and has nobody to cook for, except herself and besides she was invited to spend Thanksgiving with her brother.

Rebecca Todd is a very fast sewer, and she had a missionary apron almost finished by the time the others arrived; she had talked every minute, too. Mrs. Todd is noted for her conversational powers. She politely gave an inkling of the topic under discussion to every newcomer, took up the threads, as it were, for her inspection, then proceeded. Everybody, with the exception of Maria Hopkins, listened respectfully. Mrs. Todd is considered a very smart woman, and besides she is well to do, has the finest house in town and the best furniture. Maria Hopkins, who has her own opinions, listened rather contemptuously; once in a while she sniffed in a way she has, and she screwed her forehead very tight over her sewing. She has never liked Rebecca Todd since they were girls together. Mrs. Todd talked, and talked; scarcely any one else said a word. When the last comer, Mrs. Pendergrass, entered she had just begun to relate a Thanksgiving experience of hers, which she considered remarkable, as, Maria whispered, she considered most experiences of her own. “I should think she would be astonished because they never put the day she was born into the almanac, to calculate the weather from,” whispered Maria, and the minister's wife, who sat next her and is considered too young and giddy by some folks for a minister's wife, giggles, and then was so scared because she had that she turned pale.

“I was just saying,” said Mrs. Todd, very politely, to Mrs. Stephen Pendergrass, who is tall and meek and slides into the first chair as if she were unworthy to sit anywhere, “that everybody has Thanksgivings, but I thought that not everybody had had Thanksgivings that seemed to stand out — special Thanksgivings, as it were.”

Mrs. Pendergrass, who is always afraid to speak before more than two, bowed solemnly and colored up and down, and looked as if she had done something awful every Thanksgiving Day of her life, and Mrs. Todd went on sewing all the time as fast as she could drive her needle.

“Yes,” said she. “I have had as good Thanksgivings as anybody; always a turkey and everything to go with it, and my relations visiting me, or else me visiting my relations, but I don't remember more than one special Thanksgiving, that seems to sort of stand out, as it were. That was the first one when I ever cooked the whole dinner myself without any help.”

“I suppose that was the first Thanksgiving after you were married,” said Mrs. Henry Mixter, who is a very genteel, soft-spoken woman; she admires Mrs. Todd very much and tries to be intimate with her.

“No, it was not,” Mrs. Todd said, with an important nod the like of which I never saw in anybody else. “No, it was not; it was before I was married, and I cooked the dinner for fifteen and had it ready by 12 o'clock, by the time they got home from meeting, besides putting the house in apple-pie order. Mother wasn't very strong, and my sister Lizy's little Sammy was only six months old. I washed and dressed little Sammy that morning, too, and I washed and dressed brother Henry's twins — his wife wasn't able to do much, and she had a run-around on her thumb — and I curled little Minerva's hair in two rows of curls. I dressed five children that morning, besides all the rest.”

“Did that six-month-old baby go to meeting?” said Maria, with one of her sniffs, and Mrs. Todd glared at her.

“No,” said she, “he didn't. My sister began early with her children, training them to go to meeting, but she wasn't a fool. I had that baby to take care of, besides all the rest, and he was teething and terrible fractious. I had to keep joggling his cradle between whiles. Then I had to put on father's collar and cravat for him, and do up mother's hair, and heat the soapstones for their feet; they had to go three miles in sleighs, and it was pretty cold. After they were all gone, I tell you I just flew. There was the turkey to cook, and it had to be basted every fifteen minutes — mother wouldn't look at a turkey that wasn't basted every fifteen minutes; didn't think it was fit to eat — and there were all the vegetables to be got ready and the chicken pies to be baked — mother didn't think a chicken pie that was baked the day before it was eat was fit to be looked at — and there was the pudding and the pudding sauce to be made and the table to lay. Then there were seven beds to be made up and everything to be dusted — mother was dreadful particular. Then I had the hens to feed and the eggs to get and fresh sponge cake to make, because mother didn't think it was good unless it was baked the day it was eat; then, to cap the climax, I had to make some butter. Mother had a little cream, just right to churn, and I knew she hated to have it wasted, and so I made a pound and a half of butter, besides all the rest. Then in the midst of it all Sophy Briggs that was — she lived next door, and her folks had gone to meeting and she stayed at home on account of having a cold — came running in with her finger cut to the bone, and I had to do that up in cobwebs, and she hadn't more'n gone before I burnt my own finger lifting out the turkey to baste, so I've got the scar of it now. Well, I lived through it, and that dinner was all on the table at 12 o'clock, when they got home from meeting, and me in my best, all ready to help them out and take off the children's things. Well, as I was saying, that Thanksgiving has always seemed to me a special one, and kind of stands out, as it were.”

Mrs. Todd stopped and looked around as if she were waiting for admiration.

“I call that a Thanksgiving to be remembered,” said Mrs. Henry Mixter, in her genteel way. “I never heard of such a day's work, and you so young, too.”

We all reflected that we had never done anything like it, though we had worked hard enough on Thanksgiving Day, and we all felt impressed, all except Maria Hopkins. She sniffed — “How long was that before you were married, Mrs. Todd, may I ask?” said she.

Rebecca Todd looked sharply at her — “Much as ten years,” said she. “Why?”

“Nothing,” said Maria, but I could see that she was figuring in her head. After a while, when Mrs. Todd was talking about something else, she broke right in. “I've got something to say,” said she. “You were seventeen years old when you were married, Rebecca Todd, and now you are trying to make it out that you were only seven years old when you did such a day's work as that.”

Rebecca Todd colored as red as a beat, and a kind of quiver seemed to go all over her, but she looked Maria full in the face. “Well, what of it?” said she.

“I don't believe one word of it,” said Maria.

“You can believe it or not, just as you're a mind to,” said Rebecca Todd, “but I'm telling it, and I was never known to tell a lie in my whole life.”

Well, Mrs. Todd's special Thanksgiving has divided our sewing circle. Half side with her, and half believe she told a wicked lie, and it not fit to associate with us in mission work. To this day nobody knows whether she really had that special Thanksgiving, when she was seven years old or not; but the sewing circle is divided, and this week, before Thanksgiving, one part meets with Mrs. Henry Mixter, and the other part meets with ME.