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Memories Are Main Ingredient This Thanksgiving

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As part of StoryCorps' National Day of Listening project, Michele Norris talks with her mother, Elizabeth, about her life growing up in northern Minnesota. The project encourages people to sit down with a loved one on Nov. 28, the day after Thanksgiving, and record a meaningful conversation.


The Thanksgiving holiday is behind us, but in many households, loved ones are still together. And so, we'd like you to think of this Friday as a National Day of Listening. Our friends at StoryCorps are encouraging people to record a conversation with a loved one, much like they do each week for Morning Edition. This week, I talked with my mother, Elizabeth Norris, though everyone calls her Betty. She was born in Minnesota at the end of the Depression. In tough times, her father, Jinx Brown(ph), had steady work, and he opened his home to a steady stream of friends. I asked Mom about the visitors, to her as aunts and uncles.

Ms. ELIZABETH NORRIS: Oh, yes, yes, there was Aunt Priscilla. Now, she was much older than my parents. She always wore long dresses, long aprons.

NORRIS: Like prairie-style dresses?

Ms. NORRIS: Like prairie-style, and she was not skinny...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. NORRIS: But she was a lovely, lovely person. And there were my mother, my father and my three siblings, and we lived in the bottom of a duplex. So, you can about imagine six people and then adding a seventh person and sometimes there would be eight of us, you know, in the house.

NORRIS: Now who was the eighth person?

Ms. NORRIS: Well, that was a friend of my father's - Bear Renfro(ph), that was his name.

NORRIS: Bear Renfro?

Ms. NORRIS: Bear Renfro. And he would drop in every now and then just out of the blue. And my father explained to us that Bear had the wanderlust. He would just travel around the country. And he'd show up and he'd stay with us maybe for a week or two and then out the door, gone again. But he had stories to tell - all the places he'd been and all the things he's done and he was a character. But I have one more story to tell. Have we got time?

NORRIS: Oh, of course, of course.

Ms. NORRIS: We had another neighbor, a minister - Reverend Clayburn(ph) - and my mother would invite the reverend for Sunday supper. And oh, I wanted Mother to fix a roast and all the potatoes and all the trimmings. Mother would make a cabbage, potato, carrot dinner - a boiled dinner - with cornbread. I wanted beautiful, fluffy dinner rolls, and she'd put the cornbread on the table. I'd say, oh my God, we're feeding this to the minister? Anyway, guess what. Guess what one of my favorite meals to cook today is.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. NORRIS: Cabbage, carrots, potatoes and cornbread. But at the time I was just - I was young. I was a know-it-all.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. NORRIS: I - so, you know, and I have to admit, you know, I got kind of upset with all these people in our house, you know, because we had to - you sleep with this one and we have to make room for this one, you know? So, at the time, you know, oh no.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. NORRIS: But now I look back and I tell you, those times shaped me for who I am today. To this day, I love to entertain my friends. You know, I just - I just like people.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: My mother, Elizabeth "Betty" Norris, and her childhood story. On this National Day of Listening, we encourage you to capture a loved one's story and record it, if you can. To hear more chats recorded by members of the NPR family, please visit our website,

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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