The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 22, 2002


Carlisle families celebrate Thanksgiving in many different ways Bringing the family together

When I rang up Kay and Walter Woodward to arrange a time when we could meet to talk about how the Woodward family celebrates Thanksgiving, Kay's initial response was to say how she was still recovering from the five family birthdays that had been celebrated in October. "I've finally had time to get back to working on my quilt," she explained, "but of course we'd be happy to talk to you."

The Woodwards are truly an extended family. Walter and Kay moved to Carlisle from Wellesley in 1959 when Walt's company, Wind Tunnel Instrument, opened an office in Burlington. They bought the 1731 Blood house, "Golden Glow Farm," on Bedford Road, enrolled their three children, Bill, Dave and Carol, in the Carlisle School and Concord-Carlisle High School, and became involved in town activities.

After school Ema Woodward joins her grandmother Kay in the kitchen to try out a new recipe that might be used for the Thanksgiving meal. (Photo by Midge Eliassen)
In 1988 when their son Dave, with his wife Taina and daughter Jenny, returned from the Fiji Islands to live in Carlisle, Kay and Walter sold their home to Dave and moved to a smaller house on South Street, where they would have less work and "one-floor living."

This year as Thanksgiving plans got under way, the family decided to gather at the "old homestead," as some like to call it, on Bedford Road. "We move to different locations," Kay explained, "but this year, Dave has taken charge."

So, gathered together on Thanksgiving Day will be Kay and Walter with most of their children and grandchildren. Dave and Taina, the hosts, will have the help of their three children, Jenny, 17, Walter Jr., 14, and Ema, 11. Kay and Walter's oldest son, Bill, will be driving down from Durham, New Hampshire, with his son Pierce. Bill's daughter, who is studying at Brown, will also attend. Carol, who lives in Ottawa with her family, will not be there, but her son, Timothée, who is in graduate school at MIT, will make the trek to Carlisle. A Fijian nephew who is attending Middlebury College will balance out the younger generation. They have also invited Anna P. Johnson, age 96, the oldest member of the Carlisle community. That adds up to 13, which certainly makes for a good crowd.

"We'll be at Dave and Taina's," continued Kay, "because they have more space and Taina loves to cook and does a bang-up job cooking for a crowd. I'll be bringing the vegetables and dessert." Two of the grandchildren who are coming are vegetarians which is an added challenge for their grandmother, a former home economics major and a 1940 graduate of Purdue University, who has her eye out for new and intriguing recipes. Already Kay has decided on a pumpkin cheesecake pie for dessert, a recipe that she found in Yankee Magazine. As for the vegetables, she hasn't made up her mind yet.

Walter and Ema practice together some of the music that will be played by members of the family following the Thanksgiving meal. (Photo by Midge Eliassen)
In a conversation with Taina the next day, she explained the role her family will play on Thanksgiving Day. "Dave is an early riser and will be in charge of the turkey, which he'll cook in our 1920 oven. Everyone will arrive at 1 p.m. and we'll try to sit down for dinner by 2 p.m. I'd like to make sure no one feels rushed. My main hurdle," she added, "is to get the food on the table before it gets too late."

Asked to explain how an American Thanksgiving compares with holiday gatherings in Fiji, she explained it this way. "In Fiji everyone comes to the house ahead of time to cook. The men tend to the underground earth-oven, the lovo, while the women gather in four groups of eight or so to work on the other parts of the meal. There is lots of socializing with one another while we cook and the children play together all around. The meal is set for no specific time, just the rough idea of whether it is a midday or an evening meal." In Natogadravu, Taina's small town on the island of Viti Levu, where she grew up, there were 30 families, all related to one another in some way. "There was a Thanksgiving every day," said Taina. "There was always something happening and everyone was invited."

Getting back to the Thanksgiving meal in Carlisle on Thursday, Taina will be making a fish dish. "I like to see fish on the table, so I'll be making a Fijian dish where the whole fish is baked in coconut cream," she explained. Like her mother-in-law, Taina has been poring over recent copies of Country Living Magazine and Bon Appetit looking for some fancy recipes. As for her own children, Jenny will be looking for a stuffing recipe, Walter Jr. will make cinnamon rolls, and Ema will help with the salad and arrange the table centerpiece. "My children help out and they love the cooking aspect," said Taina. "They are so loaded down with homework, cooking is their relaxation."

When the family gathers around the tables that have been set up in the music room (the dining room is under renovation), they will bow their heads and join hands while each says what he or she is most thankful for. Then after the meal, Grandfather Walter will bring out his collection of mostly brass musical instruments, and the many who are musically inclined will play together. After that there may be some time left for board or card games.

As the Thanksgiving celebration draws to a close, usually around 5 or 6 p.m., leftovers will be divided up in the kitchen and sent home with the young adult grandchildren who have cooking facilities back at school.

The Woodward family will have celebrated an American Thanksgiving in their own way, with bits and pieces of a Fijian Island festival added as well.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito