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Prime Time: Looking back at Novembers from childhood to today

November was a time to think rather unhappily about the imminent coming of winter when I was growing up in Illinois.

We did not usually get snow that early, which might have provided a chance for some sledding and fun. It just got cold and damp, and often windy as well. We were stuck inside, waiting for Christmas and the hope of new toys.

Thanksgiving brought a big family gathering and a huge meal, but after dinner the young kids were supposed to go play quietly so the adults could listen to the radio and doze in their chairs. When we got a little older, we also had to help with the clearing away and washing of dishes ("Be careful, those are Grandmother's special ones, only used for holiday meals."). As a result, it was a while before we could escape upstairs to play with dolls or games in my bedroom. That was only fun when there were some kids near my age in the group, which was not always the case.

It is not that holidays were no fun for the kids, but there were definitely some limitations, and a lot depended on the ages in the group. Before long, my older brother and his cohorts would be in his bedroom or in the attic playing pool, and they would tell the younger kids to get lost.

Yes, we did have a full-size pool table in our attic. My grandmother bought it from some restaurant/bar and my mother worked hard to make sure it was cleaned of all the germs she was sure it harbored. It became the center of entertainment for us and our friends for many years. I remember that at a campground when my husband and I were traveling, the guys were astonished when I beat their socks off at a pool table.

When our kids got to be school-age, we began to want to establish our own family holiday traditions, and we stopped making the trip to the old home town for Christmas. We did, however, keep going back for Thanksgiving until we moved to the Twin Cities, where the trip was not only longer but often presented the possibility of unpleasant and even unsafe driving conditions.

Now, of course, we are the "old folks" always hoping for visits from not only our grown children and growing grandchildren, but even very young great-grandchildren. We are not trying to do much traveling, so we depend on them to come to us. However, we understand from our own experiences that they have their own traditions now, and we are glad to have them come whenever they can. Whatever the plans are, we will eat too much on Thanksgiving Day and enjoy our memories of all our holidays and of all the people for whom we are truly thankful.