Kathy's Corner

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Food And Family

My mother was not a good cook. That is why I am very skilled at going out to eat. My family loved going to the diner, especially on Friday nights when my mother and grandmother got their hair done. Since they didn’t get done at the beauty parlor until after 8pm, we loved going to a place that had a lot of food to feed several hungry O’Connells with very good looking hair on two of them! I didn’t know my mother wasn’t a good cook until I had dinner at my friend Nancy’s house and discovered how food is supposed to taste.

My family had some food traditions around Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving morning always smelled like onions and bacon sizzling together while Grangree put together her stuffing. Before dinner, my mother served frozen shrimp cocktails that came in packages of three, sold in glass jars. That was how we got our supply of juice glasses for the year. Mom didn’t always defrost the shrimp cocktails before she served them, so it was like eating a shrimp popsicle.

My mother’s most controversial Thanksgiving tradition was creamed onions. Her cooking them was controversial because every year we complained and didn’t eat them, and every year she made them anyway. She explained “my grandmother made them and my mother made them, so I make them.” Long after Grangree and my mother had passed away, I continued to make creamed onions at Thanksgiving, until my friend Dennis asked one year “why do you make them if nobody ever eats them?” That was the last Thanksgiving I made creamed onions.

Thanksgiving is at my house again this year, as most holidays are with the mix of friends I call my “framily.” We’ll have our traditions of turkey and cranberry orange relish. I have made sure someone is bringing corn pudding: a food tradition I never heard of until two Thanksgivings ago, but now I must have. We will have pumpkin and pecan pies from MANNA. This year we’ll have a vegan fruit pie as well, since some of the framily follow plant-based diets. Most of all, we will share food and laughter and gratitude for being together on this very special day.

(And later we’ll watch The National Dog Show on TV!)

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My original family was my mother, my father, my grandmother and my brother Tommy. They all died many years ago. Since then, I have been lucky enough to build a framily: a combination of friends and family who fill my life with love and care.

If you think about the faces you see when you think of the word “family,” I bet there is a great mix of people among those faces. They have different ages, sizes, colors, genders…but all are part of that mind picture of “family.” One of my favorite quotes about family comes from a TV show (of course). On “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” the character Mary Richards describes her co-workers as her family. She says: “What is family anyway? It’s the people who make you feel less alone and really loved.” Think of the people who make you feel really loved and safe and secure. That is what family feels like.

My mother’s family came together because a ferry sailed across the Hudson River in upstate New York. My grandfather’s family lived in Newburgh. My grandmother’s family lived across the river in Beacon. Without that ferry running between the two cities, I might not be here today! They met working together in a hat factory. My own parents came together because my mother worked as a secretary with my father’s sister, and while he was in North Africa and Italy during World War II, they started writing to each other. A few years ago my cousin Maureen found a letter my father wrote to his sister (Maureen’s grandmother) during the war. He mentions my mother, calling her “Millie’s friend.” Seeing that letter connected me with my own past in a very special way.

This time of year when families get together to celebrate holidays is a wonderful time to make memories. Ask questions of your relatives about their lives. You’ll be surprised what you might learn! My cousin Rosemary says her first set of skis came from my mother. She became a ski instructor when she grew up. I do not remember my mother ever skiing or showing any interest in skiing, but Rosemary’s memory of her is tied to that sport.

This time leading to the winter holidays is when families gather. This month on Kids Corner we are celebrating family in all the ways it comes together.

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I have a confession. Before October 22, 2018, I had never actually watched the movie “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” That didn’t stop me from praising it on Kids Corner, based on the wonderful things I have heard about it. It certainly had been recommended by both kids and adults! For years the Kids Corner staff (especially Eric Schuman) has been telling me what a great Halloween movie this stop-action musical animated tale is. And yet, I had never sat down and watched the entire movie…a very short movie, I must say.

WHAT WAS I THINKING???

This may be the greatest Halloween movie I have ever seen!! NOTE: I think “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is probably best for kids over the age of 7, although your mileage may vary. Eric Schuman first watched this movie when he was 5, and he did just fine.

This is the tale of Jack Skellington, the King of Halloween Town. After he finishes leading his town’s annual celebration of yucky horrible things for Halloween, Jack becomes fascinated with Christmas Town. Christmas Town is as bright and colorful as Halloween Town is dark and creepy. Jack loves everything about Christmas and the person he calls “Sandy Claws.” He takes a very scientific approach to figuring out Christmas, including kidnapping an important Christmas figure!!

This movie is wonderful!!! It looks beautiful. The characters and situations are original and imaginative. There is a bad guy who looks and sounds really bad, but has great style while he does. The songs are a great match for the story. The whole thing is just creepy enough for enjoyable Halloween entertainment, but not enough to give you nightmares very easily. And you can watch it all over again in a couple of months for Christmas!!

During Halloween Season 2018, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” can be seen on the big screen in local theaters. Some towns make showing this movie an annual event! Check your local movie listings. The story of Halloween Town continues in the 2004 videogame “The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie’s Revenge.”

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