Thanksgiving Musings

“Cold, still, quiet morning” were my thoughts as I stood in the back yard, waiting for Dora to pick just the right spot. The duty done, I turned and went back into the house. My kitchen is clean—no potatoes peeled or cranberries in the pan, no turkey resting in a roaster, waiting to be rubbed down with butter and salt and pepper, no giblets floating in a pan of water that in a few hours would be gravy. No, just a cup of coffee waited for me in its insulated cup. I could have taken it back outside to reflect on thanksgiving pasts, but it’s more comfortable here in my recliner.

The first one I can remember was at my grandma’s far away in the country. Her tiny cabin was almost bursting at the seams with relatives, and her even tinier kitchen was filled with the women working elbow to elbow to prepare the feast. the men stood around with whiskey and soda in glasses that were refilled as they waited. At age 4 or so, I had my first experience with an outhouse. It was cold and smelly, and worst of all, I had accidentally dropped the candy I had been clutching in my hand down the hole, and that was tragic indeed.

Fast forward several years, and the next memorable Thanksgiving featured a drive with my grandmother, mother and brother to another relative’s home in Indiana. We had a flat tire, and my brother, on leave from the Air Force, fixed it with no fuss. The relative was a “little person,” so her countertops and sink in the bathroom were low enough for me as a tiny girl, and I was fascinated. their home was filled with beautiful antiques, as they were antique dealers. My mother worried that I would knock over their thousand-dollar lamp, so she watched me like a hawk.

When I had a family of my own, we hosted my husband’s family (He was the oldest of 12.) at tables set up in our family room. today, I cannot imagine how we fit everybody in. the next year, we rented a room at a church, but there was so much room that it felt cold and strange, with 3 feet between each seated guest.

One of my favorites brought 11 single friends together at my house. I had invited those who had no family nearby and would otherwise be spending the day alone. I told the smokers in the group that there would be no smoking and no football on this thanksgiving. One of the smokers admitted to me later that he couldn’t imagine a Thanksgiving without football, but later, he sent me the sweetest thank-you note saying it was the best thanksgiving he had ever had.

The most fun one of all came many years later, when my daughter was living with me while she earned her masters’ at OSU. We drove to another town to have dinner at an elegant restaurant. The food was good, but the fun part came afterward. We changed into jeans and sneakers in the car and began walking out of town on the bike trail there. When we reached the outskirts of town, I released my Seeing Eye ® dog and let her run and sniff to her heart’s content. Her nose was like a little shovel and she tracked some animal through the leaves. “This just made her little doggy day,” Kara observed. Mine too.

The funniest happened the Thursday after Kara and Scott’s wedding. Kara insisted that because Scott loved mashed potatoes, we should make 20 pounds’ worth. Of course, we had oodles left over, but it’s hard to convince a woman in love that she might be overdoing it. I loved that thanksgiving, because we’d eat the first course, then open some wedding gifts, have the main part of the meal, with mounds of mashed potatoes, and then go open some more gifts. By eating gradually, we could savor the food that had been prepared with love, and not rush through it. Dessert ended a long and luxurious afternoon.

I hope you all make lovely memories today.

Mary Hiland

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261

A Cousin Appears from Cyberspace

Writing a blog has many benefits, such as updating your friends on what’s happening in your life, sounding off about a subject you’re passionate about, or bragging about your grandchildren. OK. I admit it. I use this page for all of these reasons, but today, I want to share a discovery I made, through or because of my blog.

I was surprised to learn the other day that while seeing if my “About Mary” needed updating, people really do read that section and that you can actually make a comment there. I guess I never read that far down the page to see that some people I know had left messages. I’m sorry I never responded to you, if you were one of them. But I did respond to one who had left her comment in June of last year. OMG. I hope she didn’t think I had blown her off. She said that our grandmothers were sisters, naming them and mentioning other memories of having visited when we were very young. . I was absolutely ecstatic. I thought I was the only living person in my generation in my family, as my mother once said, “the last little leaf on that branch.” I have been sad about that, because I thought there was no one left in this world who could reminisce with me, who could share memories, and fill in the missing pieces. I figured out that her mother and mine were first cousins, but I don’t recall my mother’s talking about her or her children. Now here appears my second cousin, which to me is just as important as a first cousin. I won’t mention her name here, except to say that she knows who she is, and although I have responded to her twice and have sent her my email, I am waiting with eager anticipation to hear from her again. Maybe she isn’t as thrilled as I am to find a cousin I didn’t know I had, because it has taken 18 months for me to read her note. . She said in her comment that she had sent my mother some family information when Mother was working on our genealogy but of course, being totally blind, I haven’t seen it. But I intend to try to find her on Facebook or other social media. Her first name is the same as my beloved aunt, and I suspect there was a reason for that. Maybe not, but it might be a connection even she didn’t know we had.

At this time of year when families gather for the holidays, it’s especially meaningful to me to know that this woman exists, so even if we never connect again, it’s a gift to me to have heard from her, if only just this once.

Mary Hiland

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at

What’s a Hen Hike?

As many of you know, I go on a hiking trip each October with a group of women friends, half of whom are blind. We call it the Hen Hike, (HH.) What made this year’s HH extraordinary for me was first, that it was in northeastern Ohio, at Punderson State Park, so I didn’t have to fly, and secondly, that I was able to walk after having spine surgery just six months before. This year’s hike was different from all the 18 previous HH events because two of us brought our dog guides. We knew that the trails would not be as narrow or demanding, such as the ones we’ve hiked in the New England states, where using a guide dog might be a little trickier, considering that we sometimes had to cross streams on a log, hold onto a tree to keep from sliding down a steep hill, or climbing over trees that had fallen over the trail. Ah, those were the good old days, but our sighted guides were always successful in getting us through those challenging spots. Sometimes they had to coach us on where to put our next foot while crossing a creek by stepping from one rock to the next. But this year, while we did have some rocks and roots to negotiate, our biggest challenge was the ankle deep mud we had to slog through, because there was no way to get around that part of the trail. Of course, the dogs loved it. What dog wouldn’t love tromping through muddy water? I guess we had a good time, because each day, we’d come home to the inn, wet, tired, and dirty.

Now I must admit that I only hiked 2 of the 4 days on the muddy trails. My dog Dora had never had this joyous experience before, and she was so excited that she pulled with all her 73 pounds of might, and since we were on trails through the woods, and no sidewalks, I simply could not keep up with her. Furthermore, it was not good for my back to be pulled with such force. I felt pretty beat up those first 2 days, simply by trying to hold onto her and keep her from pulling my arm out of its socket. I tried every command I knew to slow her down, but she was hell-bent on being first, as all guide dogs are, in the line of hikers and one other guide dog, tromping through the woods. The weather was perfect, except for the mud, but that was to be expected, given the heavy rains from the aftermath of Michael.

On the third day, we had my favorite hike of all, 3 miles of walking through a nearby outlet mall. Oh joy of joys, to have ready-made shopping helpers. When we arrived, we set a time and place to meet for lunch, and then 2 by 2, we set off in all directions to hit the stores of our choice. This part of the HH has become a tradition only in recent years. In the beginning, we had some very serious hikers who didn’t even want to stop to buy maple syrup as a souvenir from Vermont, let alone spend an entire day hiking through merchandise. When we met for lunch, we showed each other what bargains we had found, which turned out to be the best marketing strategy there is. We quickly ate our sandwiches and downed our cappuccinos and headed over to get the same treasures for ourselves. that evening, when we showed off our new duds to each other at Happy Hour, we exclaimed that after hiking the next day, we just had to go back one more time for one more chance to buy those jeans, that shirt, those shoes, and even that amazing underwear. On that day, I opted not to hike, as my shins were killing me, so Dora and I relaxed in my room. After a quick lunch in our Happy Hour room, most of us took off again for the shops for that one last deal.

Over the years, the makeup of the HH has changed. We had me, the one who has back issues even now, and then we have Jill, our youngest Hen, who hiked the Grand Canyon with Patty, one of our guides. I suspect that as we age, our hikes will become tamer, but because we are healthy and hardy women, who love to be active in the out-of-doors, we are already planning next year’s hike. . The photos accompanying this post include the sweetest picture of Dora and Delta as they relaxed after a vigorous day of hiking.

Mary Hiland

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at