My favorite holiday is coming!

November 14, 2021

I wish to reclaim a time when November meant getting excited about Thanksgiving, and nary a thought was given to the December holidays.

Our teachers taught us Thanksgiving was about commemorating the Indians who explained how to grow corn. In grade school, we dressed like Pilgrims or Indians, and we feasted on pumpkin pie together.

As a child, I could smell the turkey in the early morning hours, but my sisters and I were banned from entering the kitchen. Our job was to design place cards, using cardboard and colored pencils to embellish them. Really, it was our mother’s way of keeping us out of the fray.

As we drew turkeys and pumpkins in the rec room (who even calls it a rec room anymore?), we speculated about the arrival time of Gene Tourville, my father’s bachelor friend who lived in Washington, D.C.

We would pick him up in front of the People’s Drugstore on Chevy Chase Circle, waiting for his squat body to appear with a brown bag tucked under his arm. His contribution was ice cream and and maybe eggnog.

More than sweet confections, Gene brought laughter into our house. Our father was serious and prone to anger, but Gene’s presence tempered the mood and made any visit more fun.

Years later, my home became the holiday gathering spot, as I had a dining room table with two large leaves which could extend the mahogany tabletop into the living room. Some years we put a card table up next to it for overflow.

The bachelor at our table was Uncle Ray from Jersey City. His contribution was to help me procure 16 chairs of various shapes and sizes from different recesses of the bedrooms and basement.

Uncle Ray was happy to be invited. After his death, when we cleaned out his apartment, we discovered his stove hadn’t worked in years, and that he ate most of his meals at the diner down the street.

Looking back I picture two blue tablecloths, creases never ironed from the previous year, overlapping one another, and an assortment of chairs, including lawn furniture. It wouldn’t make the cover of a Martha Stewart magazine.

There were enough place settings of Franciscan Apple china to feed 21 people, as that was my mother-in-law’s annual Christmas gift to me for 21 years. She always arrived days early to prepare her mother’s cranberry salad, which could only be made in a food processor, as it called for one orange ground whole, seeds and all.

We had to dispense with place cards, because no one wanted to be told where to sit, and I didn’t want to choose who got the folding chairs, which were a head shorter and made you have to hover the gravy boat over your lap.

Thanksgiving will always be my favorite holiday. Every year there are different faces, often new faces to grace the fold, but oh, how wonderful it is to bow our heads together and be grateful for the blessings bestowed. Enjoy your Thanksgiving. Maybe you have fond memories as well!

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