Column, Looking Back

November can be dreary!

By Mary Ellen Shaw

The older you get the less likely you are to look forward to November!

I swear the sole purpose of that month is to concentrate on Thanksgiving and some early Christmas shopping. When your status is “retired” you need something positive to focus on when you get up in the dark and eat dinner in the dark. Seeing the sun is a real treat at this time of year.

I like to brighten the days by putting small white lights on a bittersweet garland that I drape across the mantle. I turn them on when I come downstairs in the morning and again late in the afternoon as darkness creeps in. The lights are a very inexpensive way to give a cheerful atmosphere to a room.

Back in my younger days November was like every month of the year…no cause for gloom or doom…just another month to think about ways to have fun.

One of those “fun times” was during my high school days back in the ’60s. November was the month when the rival football game was played between Mt. St. Joseph Academy (MSJ) and Rutland High School (RHS) on a Saturday afternoon. I was a student at MSJ back then and have fond memories of a bonfire at St. Peter field on the Friday night before the game. This was followed by a snake dance with all of us holding hands as we wove our way from River Street, up over the bridge and through the streets of downtown. A friend remembers guests at the Berwick Hotel hanging out the window of their rooms cheering us on.

The football bleachers were full of spectators with additional fans standing on the grounds. If it was a home game for MSJ you would see people on the roofs of some nearby River Street houses. Nothing like a little height to give you a “bird’s eye view” of the action!

In 1962, which was my senior year, the MSJ football team was the state champion. What a way for my class to end the season! As I browsed through some old newspapers online I saw pictures of my classmates who played on the football team. I couldn’t help but think how quickly time has passed since those days.

During my college years, November was the first time that many college students returned home. The Thanksgiving break gave everyone a chance to see their family and friends for a nice long weekend. I went to Trinity College in Burlington so it was easy for me to go home prior to that holiday. But students who lived out of state started getting excited about going home when Nov. 1 rolled around on the calendar.

Many of the students were from the New York City area as well as Connecticut. Cars were not allowed on campus unless you were a senior. The least expensive way to get home was to take the bus. If you didn’t want so spend money on a taxi to get you to the bus station, you stood at the bus stop in front of the college and dragged your suitcase up the steps of the bus. Then you headed down Colchester Avenue to the bus terminal on St. Paul Street. For many students boarding the bus was the beginning of a long ride home.

The Thanksgiving holiday meal is certainly an upbeat way to bring November to a close. Dinner was held at my family home for many years. My mother would be up early in the morning cooking a very large turkey and preparing all the “extras” that accompany the meal. My job as a youngster was to make place cards for the table. The purpose of that task was probably to keep me busy and it did!

In 1975, the year we were married, my husband and I had Thanksgiving dinner in the duplex we rented. I was totally clueless when it came to cooking the turkey. As my husband cut into the turkey, which was on a platter on the table, my mother noticed something sticking out of the bird. She pulled and out came the bag with all the “innards!” Laughter followed and the rest of the meal went off without a hitch! From that point forward the “bag of goodies” was taken out before the turkey went in the oven. Lesson learned!

If you are old enough not to like the dark days of November, hang in there because the white snow of December will brighten things up!

Not a fan of either snow or dark days? Then it will be a VERY long winter! But spring will arrive eventually just like it always does. So string those little white lights somewhere in your house and brighten up your day with a click of the switch.

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