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THE THANKSGIVING VISITOR (Excerpt)

by Truman Capote

…spring housecleaning…always preceded the Thanksgiving assembly…We polished the parlor furniture, the piano, the black curio cabinet…the formal walnut rockers and florid Biedermeier pieces — rubbed them with lemon-scented wax until the place was shining as lemon skin and smelled like a citrus grove. Curtains were laundered and rehung, pillows punched, rugs beaten; wherever one glanced, dust motes and tiny feathers drifted in the sparkling November light sifting through the tall rooms. Poor Queenie was relegated to the kitchen, for fear she might leave a stray hair, perhaps a flea, in the more dignified areas of the house.

The most delicate task was preparing the napkins and tablecloths that would decorate the dining room. The linen had belonged to my friend’s mother, who had received it as a wedding gift; though it had been used only once or twice a year, say two hundred times in the past eighty years, nevertheless it was eighty years old, and mended patches and freckled discolorations were apparent. Probably it had not been a fine material to begin with, but Miss Sook treated it as though it had been woven by golden hands on heavenly looms. “My mother said, ‘The day may come when all we can offer is well water and cold cornbread, but at least we’ll be able to serve it on a table set with proper linen.’”

…”Chrysanthemums,” my friend commented as we moved through our garden stalking flower-show blossoms with decapitating shears, “are like lions. Kingly characters. I always expect them to spring. To turn on me with a growl and a roar.”

…I always knew just what she meant, and in this instance the whole idea of it, the notion of lugging all those growling gorgeous roaring lions into the house and caging them in tacky vases (our final decorative act on Thanksgiving Eve) made us so giggly and giddy and stupid we were soon out of breath.

…A lively day, that Thanksgiving. Lively with on-and-off showers and abrupt sky clearings accompanied by thrusts of raw sun and sudden bandit winds snatching autumn’s leftover leaves…