! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanks For The Memories

It’s that time of year again—a time to gather family and friends, make some time-honored recipes and give thanks. I have so much to be grateful for that I hardly know where to begin.

First and foremost, I am grateful that I’m still here to celebrate the holiday. Having survived (over the years) three stomach surgeries, a small heart attack, esophageal cancer and a stroke, it’s a miracle that I can still be such a pain in the neck, but (fortunately for me) my family and (oh, so special) friends still want me hanging around and apparently, I have a lot of unfinished business.

My doctor seems to feel that I will “still be yakking it up, even as they lower me into the ground” (nice, huh?) and I am determined to keep talking (and writing) until such time.

I am thankful that I grew up with such a strong sense of family and what it means to be surrounded by love and support from a (very) colorful cast of characters. Thanksgiving has always provided fodder for stories over the years, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there was an entire book waiting to be written, if only I could find the time.

I am thankful that my grandparents were around during the “wonder years,” and that I had the great good fortune to grow up in a multi-generational household. We weren’t exactly the Waltons (Goodnight, John-boy) but we had traditions that I still hold dear and close to my heart. My mother’s parents were among the first in Binghamton to acquire a color television (yes, I’m that old!) and an instant holiday tradition was born. Dinner at Gramma Fay’s and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in living color.

Back in the day, relatives gathered from near and far to celebrate (my Gramma Fay was one of 11 siblings), and the laughter and tears of those huge dinners still reverberate today. My father’s mother, Gramma Helen, lived with us for a number of years and passed down family history, some incredible recipes and the importance of family values and a sense of belonging.

My Aunt Marcia, Uncle George and assorted cousins were in attendance, and are still around to reminisce and ruminate as I give thanks. Just this year, Aunt Marcia gave me my grandmother Helen’s “good china,” which I now use every day (after all, if I only dragged it out for “special occasions,” I’d be able to use the dishes 20—if I’m lucky, maybe 30—times!

My Grampa Mack was an extraordinary human being, and I am extremely thankful to have grown up with his amazing generosity of spirit. I sorely miss him (and the rest) to this very day.

Although my father has been gone a long, long time, my beautiful, talented, creative and loving mother is still going strong in Delray Beach, FL. She might not care to admit it, but she is, in many ways, directly responsible for me being the happy (and hapless) lunatic that I am today.

My sister lives in Canada now and celebrates a “Thanksgiving” that I don’t even pretend to understand, but it is impossible to get through the day without recalling one year in particular. Vicki was already in college when my mother asked for her help with the turkey. Apparently, Mom had asked said sister to take the bird out of the oven to cool.

Presumably, Mom intended that the turkey should cool somewhere inside the house (duh), but Vicki (for whatever reason) put it outside, where our German shepherd spied it, sniffed it and dragged it through the snow, happily chowing down. I don’t remember a lot of laughter in that moment—but we sure do chuckle about it now. Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I like to think that they are all looking down on these special occasions, laughing, crying and thinking about keeping the turkey indoors.

I do know that this time of year always conjures up memories that need to be written down before it’s too late. Are there Hanukkah stories to relate? You bet. Passover tales to be told? (Oy! Don’t ask!) All I can say is, if I’m not six feet under, apparently I’ll still be talking. As long as someone (yes, even strangers on the street!) wants to hear it (there are still plenty of memories to pass down to my nephew) I am on call. Hopefully, there are plenty of stories that have yet to unfold. Can’t wait to see what Thursday has to offer. One thing is sure, with my sister 1,000 miles away, the turkey is (probably) safe!

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