The November 29 edition of Warrior Connection takes us back to separate time via the poetry and writings my own cousin: Bonnie. Bonnie Rokke Tinnes is a teacher of English and Russian and a registered nurse with BS Degrees from Bemidji State University and the University of North Dakota. She is author of the Growing up Margaret Series, Grandma’s Three Winks, Snow Presents and Other Poems, and Dancing Barefoot in the Wind, another collection of her poetry. Now retired, she lives with her husband Gilmen in the Bemidji Minnesota area. Bonnie’s works are available on AMAZON.COM
A Thanksgiving Gift
Bonnie Fay Tinnes
Juvenile: grandma, family, giving, Thanksgiving
Sometimes I wondered how Fancy Grandma found her friends. She had a strange
mixture of individuals that she called friend, and it did not matter how
rich or poor, how popular or unpopular, or how old or young one was, or what
one had done or not done. It seemed like she knew everyone, and everyone
knew her. Grandma respected everyone and was especially a champion of the
less fortunate, the needy, and the underdog. She always told me, “Pumpkin,
don’t judge anyone. You never know who God has sent to help you.”
Thanksgiving gave Fancy Grandma another chance to be generous. Every Friday
before the week of Thanksgiving, she met with other members of the community
to put together baskets for people in the community who could not afford to
buy the makings for a Thanksgiving dinner. The baskets included a large
frozen turkey, fresh potatoes, canned corn, canned cranberry sauce, stuffing
mix, home-grown squash that Grandma donated, and a can of pumpkin pie mix.
Before they met they knew exactly who would receive the gift, and when they
were done each of them delivered baskets until they were gone.
Fancy Grandma always saved one Thanksgiving basket that she delivered the
next day, Saturday. This year she invited me to go with her when she
delivered it to the Jennewein family.
Eva and Charles Jennewein lived in a log cabin in the woods, and there was
only a trail to get there. Fancy Grandma worried that it would snow making
it difficult for us to bet back to the main road. When we woke up early
Saturday morning, we turned on the radio for the weather forecast, which
determined how long we stayed and if we stayed over night. The forecast was
for a cold but sunny day, and we planned to spend the night with the
At first when Fancy Grandma invited me to go with her to visit the
Jenneweins, I hesitated. Everyone knew they were poor. People laughed at
their large family saying they had too many children they could not support
them. Classmates did not want to be with them in school, and as the children
became older, they moved away from home often quitting school. Others
laughed at the way they dressed and the way they smelled of wood smoke from
the way they heated their house. I didn’t want to go there, but I didn’t
want to hurt Grandma’s feelings.
Briget Jennewein was the youngest child in the family and the only one still
living at home. She was in my class at school, but I did not know her
because she always stayed by herself in school. She always looked lonely.
This fall I had not seen her at all and wondered what happened to her. I
wondered if she was at home today.
The day was cold and windy so we dressed in warm clothes. There was a light
powdering of snow on the frozen ground and only a few dried up leaves on the
trees that looked stripped against the sky with their verdant attire gone.
Only the evergreens showed signs of life. Occasionally we saw a deer
wondering through the woods looking for something to eat.
Our car was full of groceries and gifts for the Jenneweins. Fancy Grandma
thawed the turkey the night before, and it was ready for Eva Jennewein’s
oven. She also made a pumpkin pie and whipped cream topping to go with it.
She packed the car full of groceries: milk, butter, apples, oranges,
carrots, celery, squash, tomatoes, corn, and anything else she thought they
would need including a fresh batch of homemade buns.
She also brought gifts for all of them. Charles’ gift was a red, plaid
flannel shirt. Eva would be pleased, I felt, to receive her new fall cloth
tablecloth, and Briget’s gift was a new Scrabble game. It was a
Thanksgiving-Christmas party all in one weekend.
As we drove closer to the cabin, we smelled the inviting odor of wood smoke
coming from their chimney. Grandma said we were soon there.
Charles Jennewein answered the door. He was a kind looking gentleman, small
in stature with graying hair and deep set eyes. He greeted Grandma and me
cheerfully and offered to help us carry in our food and gifts.
Eva Jennewein was a short, chunky gray-haired round-faced woman with a kind,
gentle face and a big smile. Fancy Grandma and she were busy immediately
preparing our Thanksgiving dinner.
Briget was shy and quiet. Reserved she acknowledged me as someone she knew
from school. For a second I felt ashamed I had not defended her more and
been her friend. She was tiny like her father and wore old fashioned
clothing ten years outdated.
Their house had one large room that included the kitchen and living room and
a bed room off the the right that was Charles and Eva’s. A step ladder led
to the loft where Brigett slept. All the furniture was old and worn and a
mixture of different styles. In the corner of the living room was a fire
burning in a huge rock fireplace. On the other side of the room was an old
wood burning range that was used to cook their food and heat their cabin.
There was no indoor bathroom or running water.
As the food cooked, the room filled with the smell of roasting turkey and
dressing. Eva took her new fall table cloth that had pumpkins on it and put
it on her table. Then she carefully set the table as if she was serving the
President of the United States or the Queen of England. Everything was set
in perfect order even if none of her dishes or silverware matched.
After we sat down for dinner, Charles asked us all to bow our heads. He
asked the Lord’s blessing on the food and everyone there. He thanked for the
blessings we had all received for the past year, for friends, for health,
and for our good time together. After he carved the turkey, we began to eat
our dinner prepared on an old, wooden kitchen stove.
Brigit remained quiet during dinner. It wasn’t until the table was cleared
and the dishes were washed that she received a nod from her father. She
climbed the ladder to the loft and returned with a beautiful, shiny violin
and gave it to him.
It was as if the whole cabin lit up. The excitement and pleasure on Briget
and her father’s faces was obvious as he began to play perfectly “Turkey in
the Straw.” Next he began to play “Orange Blossom Special” with his fingers
flying over the strings going faster and faster and faster. Briget came and
took my hands and we began to promenade around th room and dosado, and swing
around and around and around. When the song was over, we sat down exhausted
and out of breath. The rest of the evening we laughed and talked about how
much fun that was and how we should get together more often to talk and
As it came closer to bedtime, Charles began to play “The Vienna Waltz’ and
“The Blue Danube.” It was the most magnificent violin performance I had ever
heard in my life.
Briget and I slept well that night under her warm patchwork quilt and fell
asleep listening to Fancy Grandma, Eva and Charles discuss art, music, and
current events. The loft was warm and cozy with all the warmth rising up
We woke up the the sound of friendly conversation and laughter and the
tantalizing odor of bacon frying on the stove. After a breakfast of bacon
and eggs, we left the Jennoweins for home In our good-byes, Briget and I
vowed we would be friends forever and keep in touch.
“I really enjoyed myself, Fancy Grandma.”
“I know you did, Pumpkin.”
“They’re nice! I like them”
” I knew you would.”
“This is the best Thanksgiving I have ever had.”
Snow for Christmas
Bonnie Rokke Tinnes
Snow for Christmas
“A white Christmas we want,” everyone said.
The longing for snow increased by the minute
What is Christmas if snow isn’t in it?
As November passed by with no snow in sight,
The wish and the dream remained day and night.
Leaves left from fall raking, dry and brown on the ground.
Trees naked and shivering stood all around.
Except for the evergreens that stood tall and pretty,
Green as ever and ever, singing a ditty.
“We’re ready for Christmas and winter and snow.
We’re ready to put on a theatrical show.”
December came as nothing happened, no snow,
And “White Christmas” was sung on the car radio.
The earth outside remained bare and black,
As dull as a burlap hundred pound sack.
And children went to bed, longing to play,
In the snow making snowmen the very next day,
Longing to make snow angels, to sled, ski, and skate.
Longing for snowballs and snow forts to make.
Longing for red cheeks and and seeing their breath in cold air.
Nothing’s more fun anywhere. Anywhere!
And then just like magic and such.
The snow came and was almost too much!
It covered the dead leaves and all the dead grass,
Decorated the evergreens, giving them class,
Covered the rooftops and fences and driveways,
And everything else, frontways and sideways.
“It’ll be a white Christmas, after all,” they said with a smile.
“It’s here to stay and stay for awhile.”
Little kids and big kids and old kids were happy,
And Grandma and Grandpa and Mama and Pappy.
“Helloooo!” Winter said. “I’m here to stay for awhile.
Hunker down and stay happy. I want you to smile.
There’ll be diamonds around you, sparkling with light.
I’ve just decorated the world for you day and night.”
Written December 5, 2013