Bluffton Packet

Pall Malls, berets and sherry are a part of cherished Thanksgiving memories

Campbell Guscio, the columnist’s granddaughter, channeling Coco Chanel on Thanksgiving Day.
Campbell Guscio, the columnist’s granddaughter, channeling Coco Chanel on Thanksgiving Day. Submitted photo

Well, one of my favorite, holidays — Thanksgiving — has come and gone in a flash.

We had almost fifteen hungry family members gathered at our house and in front of a wonderful fire to share our repast. We even had roasted chestnuts, which we all love.

When my brothers and sister and I were small, we gathered at my grandmother’s house for our Thanksgiving feast. My grandmother always invited her friends — as did our mother and father — who had no family in town to share our feast with us. Quite often, the house was full of laughter, fun and lots of music. There was always a beautiful silver bowl filled with dried fruit and all sorts of nuts on the grand piano along with decanters of sherry for the grownups.

Two of my favorites of their friends always with us were Garland Smith and Duncan Burnet. Garland was a retired librarian who was also an artist and I was most intrigued by her. She was very slender and had dyed red hair and wore a beret perched on her head no matter what the weather was. Garland had lived in Paris for a while and then Greenwich Village in New York. She drank lots of sherry and smoked Pall Malls. If you have ever seen pictures of Edith Piaf when she was older, that is the way Garland looked.

Garland also spoke French and had been asked by my mother to teach us how to speak and write it. So you can well imagine at the age of 8 or so, I was fascinated by her. She never married and once my grandmother told me she had had a beau in Paris. Oh my goodness, that was the icing on the cake for me.

Mr. Burnet was at one time the head librarian at the University of Georgia and had helped Margaret Mitchell research certain items when she wrote “Gone With The Wind.” Mr. Burnet was a beloved friend of my grandparents and a marvelous gardener. He and my grandfather had a terraced garden in the backyard of my grandparents’ house and together grew roses and all sorts of vegetables.

Mr. Burnet played the violin, smoked Lucky Strikes, wore a beret and also drank sherry. I might add all of this sherry drinking, I later learned, was because Athens was a dry spot and that was all one could buy.

When we were finished eating, we children were shooed outside to run around and play while everything was cleaned up. Later in the afternoon, we joined everyone back in the living room in front of the fireplace where my mother played the piano while Mr. Burnet joined her on his violin.

We lay there in front of the fire as quiet as mice enjoying the whole scene for the rest of the day. That was heaven for us. The fact that Garland and Mr. Burnet were both over 80 years old made no difference. we were enchanted by them.

Since I am waxing nostalgic, I was thinking about my mother’s love of Dorothy Draper.

Books to live by

Dorothy Draper at one time was probably the most famous interior designer in the country. There were two books that were always by my mother’s bedside that Mrs. Draper wrote and was very famous for: “Entertaining is Fun!” and “Decorating is Fun!” both of which my mother lived by.

When I was little and got scared at night, I would go into my mother’s room and try to sneak into bed. It did not work and I was sent back to bed with one of Mrs. Draper’s books. I was fond of “Entertaining is Fun!”so that is the one I usually chose.

The crazy thing is I hopped back into bed and read all about what sort of party is best to have or food to serve. I love both of the books because even though they are both so old fashioned in many respects, they both still make sense. They remind me of my grandmother and her friends who lived by that wonderful charming way of doing things. Everyone took up the oriental rugs in summer, put down china matting and covered the furniture in white slipcovers.

My mother used to order big rolls of the china matting from New York and down it would go and off the orientals went to storage. I understood from a very young age how one could get a thrill out of a bit of new fabric or painting a room another color.

The following is an excerpt from “Decorating is Fun”

”I even know one woman who used to while away the black hours when she had insomnia by designing, building and completely furnishing a whole house in her mind, At breakfast she would say ‘Well, I finished the sun porch last night.’ She had to give up her pleasant habit because she was having so much fun she never did fall asleep.”