Thanksgiving wasn't Thanksgiving at our house until our mother carefully lifted down the glass fruit compote from the high shelf in the dining room, gently washed it and placed it on the sideboard, waiting to be filled. The compote was clear, pressed glass with faces of three Greek muses on the cover. It was nothing fancy, but it had been a wedding gift to our grandmother in the 1800s. It is perfect, not a chip or a crack, which is a miracle in itself as the compote has travelled with our family for over 125 years, and has resided in many states.
No matter how tight money was, mother always found enough money to purchase fruit for the footed fruit compote. She managed to do this during the Depression--even if it was just one piece of each kind of fruit. It was tradition; it was always placed in the center of the Thanksgiving dinner table.
When we were little, my sister and I would polish apples for the bowl, but only mother would place the fruit and arrange it. Apples, bananas, grapes and tangerines were the staples. Each piece was placed as if it were a gem or fragile glass ball. Once it was filled and placed on the lace covered table cloth, no one was allowed to touch it until dinner was over.
When our mother passed away, the compote went to my older sister in the family "lottery." Each year, it was the centerpiece of her Thanksgiving dinner, always with the same kinds of fruit and the same care at filling the bowl, but it was done by my niece in the last few years.
Last year I received a package marked "fragile" in so many places I was surprised that our address could be found for the delivery. There in a flimsy, half broken box filled with foam peanuts was the compote. The attached note from my niece read, "I know you love this bowl and I just cannot move it with me again. Will you take care of it for me?" Somehow it had again survived a 1,500 mile trip in one piece.
This year in Santa Fe, the bowl has already been washed and put on the side board waiting to be filled. I know what I need to purchase—bananas, apples, grapes and tangerines. Friends who come to dinner now know why it has a special place. It is nothing special, but it means home to me. It has lived through over 125 family Christmases. May it survive 100 more.
by PCH @Main