Memories of Young Motherhood: Turkey Toodles and the Calico Cornucopia

Turkey Toodles

You have to give it to social networking: it can bring the most amazing and far-flung people back into your life!

The past couple of weeks, I've had the delight of regaining contact with my children's aunt Suzanne. Back in the day (total '70's: Earth shoes, disco and breastfeeding-as-radical-act), we were young mothers together. Married to a pair of brothers, we shared those years of early marriage and dishrag soup--but when divorce struck us both a few years later, we lost touch.

Hello, Facebook! We've had a glorious time, catching up on the trajectories of each other's lives. She's discovered that I'm an author, I've discovered that she's an artist, and we've brought each other up-to-date on the progress of our respective children and grand-children.

Which might explain why I was in a sentimental mood when I unpacked my favorite Thanksgiving decorations: Turkey Toodles and the Calico Cornucopia:

thanksgiving decorations

Unpacking these stuffed calico decorations, I realized that they were 30 years old ... and oh! how they did take me back in time.

Back to when I was a young mother of a toddler, living in a small, funky University-town apartment and learning to keep house on a shoestring.

"Boughten" decor items were out of the question, but scraps of cloth and bits of stuffing were on hand, so under the spell of a woman's magazine, I stitched up this soft-sculpture cornucopia and vegetable sidekicks. [Anybody with a better memory remember just which supermarket issue publicized this pattern?]

The Calico Cornucopia has graced our Thanksgiving house ever since, and oh, does it have tales to tell!

From the start, Baby Brighid had a peculiar fondness for the carrots. That first year, her 18-month-old self wandered our home with one or both carrots hanging from her mouth. No matter how many times I took them away, she'd retrieve them to bite her new little teeth on the pointy ends.

I always felt that the experience of being a baby teething device gave those carrots an extra dose of realism:

As for Brighid's younger brother, born the next year? He loved the cornucopia itself. Not as decor, but as headgear: he played "Smurf" with it annually for several years. Pulling the cornucopia down low around his ears, Ryan would run to me, calling out, "Smurfette! Smurfette! Look at me, I'm Hefty Smurf!"

[Yes, Webmaster Ryan, this means you, honey!]

Turkey Toodles was my special favorite; to this day, he greets me from atop my "command center" in our breakfast nook.

I still remember when I saw his predecessors sometime in 1979. I was having a meeting at a very VERY '70s sort of restaurant. Hanging ferns, quiche on the menu, half-length lace curtains on the windows.

That day, the restaurant was decorated with stuffed calico turkeys with dangling, puffy feet. I came home, changed out of my business clothes, and turned to the scrap bag and the sewing machine. Result: Toodles, a calico creation who delighted me right from the first stitch.

I'm immensely fond of him, and he's held up through 30 years of annual display--not to mention a whole lot of creative playtime over the years!

This year, I am thankful that Turkey Toodles will once again run amok in my house on Thanksgiving. Like this Nana, he's had plenty of "adult-only" holidays of late, and he's eager to get back in the game.

This time, it's my little grandsons who will hug him and love him, toss him in the air (and tug on his dangly, puffy feet). As their aunt and father did, they'll flap his little wings, poke fingers under his "gobble", and cuddle with him to watch television or listen to a story.

Best of all, I will gather two little boys, tumble Toodles and the Cornucopia onto a low table, sit down with them all and tell the stories of their Auntie and their Daddy playing Smurf and biting the carrots.

Happy Thanksgiving! I am grateful!

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