The Plague and I by Betty MacDonald
At home Thanksgiving had always been a delightful occasion even when we were being thankful for meatloaf shaped like a turkey. We thought about Thanksgiving, planned for Thanksgiving and talked of Thanksgiving for weeks beforehand, but the evening before the actual day was the best time of all. Then the house seethed with children and dogs, with friends and cooks, and with delightful smells of baking pies, turkey stuffing, and coffee. Every time the doorbell rang we put on another pot of coffee and washed the cups and by the time we went to bed we were so nervous and flighty that when accidentally bumped or brushed against, we buzzed and lit up like pinball machines. Thanksgiving morning usually found us all quite nasty and with too many things planned for the oven, but even the fighting was fun. Warm, family fun.
A VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL MY READERS, WHETHER THEY ARE CELEBRATING IT TODAY OR NOT
commentary: Poor Betty, narrator and author of this largely true story, is remembering Thanksgiving with the family, because she has TB and is in a sanatorium where she has been prescribed bedrest. The treatment thought to help in those days sounds horrible and cruel in the extreme – and you have to wonder if it did any good at all. The patients had to have complete bedrest, in a freezing cold setting.
They weren’t allowed to talk, laugh, read, or write. Visits from the family were severely limited. Any excitement was strictly forbidden. If you broke the rules you were threatened with being sent home, so your bed could be given to someone who would be more co-operative.
The book, along with the other TB books I have read this year, Dark Circle by Linda Grant and Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann, was a revelation - a sad, affecting revelation. (There is another entry on it here.)
Betty, above, does manage to enjoy Thanksgiving – she is allowed to see her mother for two hours, and her two daughters for ten minutes.
Everyone was thinking about home, the air was so thick with longing, so crowded with memories that it was difficult to breathe. Someone across the hall pushed aside the heavy curtain of remembering to draw a long shuddering breath. There was a sigh from the room next door.The hospital has tried:
Our trays were set with little baskets of candies and the nurses were pleasant…The Pines had certainly done their share in trying to make the holiday a success…I think it is not a spoiler to say that Betty will be home long before the next Thanksgiving, cured, and will go on to write her best-selling books.
The beautiful picture is the cover of a Thanksgiving edition of a magazine, and comes from the Library of Congress.
For a variety of other Thanskgiving entries, click on the label below.