On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving break, mom picked me up from school. We were going to stop by the supermarket, prior to returning home, for a few more Thanksgiving dinner food items. I was anxious to get home and enjoy every minute of the four-day vacation.
Dinner that night would be uneventful, as mom would be spending the better part of the evening prepping for Thanksgiving dinner. That preparation would include: homemade tomato sauce and meatballs, homemade pasta, sausage stuffing for the turkey, pumpkin pie and, a favorite of mine, icebox cake(ingredients being-chocolate pudding, hand whipped cream, vanilla tea biscuits and chocolate wafer cookies).
When I awoke Thanksgiving morning, dad was still sleeping, having worked the night shift as a pressman. He would soon enjoy the wonderful aroma that I was, as I entered the kitchen. Mom had been up since 6AM stuffing the turkey, which was at this time in the oven. The cold and partially sunlit day, a prelude to the stark winter which lay ahead, made the warmth of the delightful happening in the kitchen quite welcome.
As mom was preparing a well-timed dinner (for which we would afterwards be most contentedly grateful), my dad was dressing for his most important task. He and my brothers were assigned the duty of picking up our grandparents who would spend Thanksgiving with us. Mom had planned in some leeway, having had past experience with the potential pitfalls of the grandparent pickup. One can never anticipate who might have popped in at my grandparents’ house to visit; especially on a holiday. If there were visitors, then a holiday drink had to be shared, or an offense would have been committed. My dad and brothers were ones not to offend. Since cell phones were not available at that time, mom would place a call to my grandparents’ house to impress the urgency, upon my dad, that it might be wise to get on the road.
When all had arrived, coats were removed and put aside as the ceremonial welcome took place. Part of which was a barrage of kisses from my grandparents, which necessitated a wipe down before dinner. At the conclusion of the welcoming ritual, all were seated around our kitchen table. We were all as snug as the proverbial bug in a rug. Few homes of that era had a formal dining room. The kitchen was a place for food preparation, consumption and celebration.
After Thanksgiving grace was offered, the first of three courses was served. First course: Antipasto, an assortment of Italian cold cuts, cheeses, olives and roasted peppers and yes-anchovies; served with crusted Italian bread. Second course: Lasagna, and for my grandfather-homemade pasta, which was his preference over lasagna: how that’s possible is beyond my understanding. A side dish of meatballs and sausage simmering in mom’s tomato sauce complimented the pasta duo. Third, and main course: a large turkey, that could barely fit in the oven. Side dishes were: roasted white potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, assorted vegetables and gravy fashioned from turkey drippings. And last but not least-the stuffing. My brothers and I would jockey for position for the rights to the most sought after crusted portion of the stuffing. Beverages would include red and/or white wine, as is customarily served at an Italian dinning table; and, of course, soft drinks for the youngsters.
When a sufficient period of time had passed from the assault on such a culinary delight, dessert was then served. Out came an assortment of confectionary enticements; pumpkin pie, Icebox cake, assorted fruit, roasted chestnuts and an array of Italian pastries contributed by my grandmother. No self-respecting Italian ever arrived as a guest for dinner without having something in hand. Coffee would round out the last segment of the memorable meal. One side note of interest. Not once did anyone, save for the kids, leave their seat at the table-not even for a bathroom break.
As wonderful as the dinner was that my mom prepared; the conversation enjoyed by those present obviously is what kept us riveted to our seats. The stories that we have heard before always seem to have an added new dimension. As time passes and we grow older, we seem to appreciate them even more. We had a love for our parents and reverence for our grandparents that, too often, is not understood today. The traditions we now cherish were safeguarded by the transference from one generation to another. Although the warmth from the oven no longer lingered; still evident, was that certain warmth which is unique only to family. The best of who we are can be found in our past; as persons, families or a nation. Don’t leave it there.
As we prepare to share Thanksgiving with loved ones, we should pause and give a thought, before that celebration, to those who find themselves not so thankful. There are those in our country or in foreign lands who suffer greatly through poverty brought about by financial deficiency or that of persecution. We can relish our celebration all the more, knowing that these unfortunates have not been forgotten. If a family such a these can, at least for a day, enjoy what we take for granted, then the warmth we hold so dear will have substance. All that is needed to make such a day for someone, and possibly in so doing turn an attitude of despair to hope, is a contribution of time or money to those legitimate organizations that can make it happen. Turning thought into action, can transform dreams into reality.
Remember our unfortunate neighbors, near or far, in your Thanksgiving prayer; so that this day made memorable for them, through charitable efforts, will not be just for a day, but through a change in circumstances, one of many to come. This prayer is not solely directed to the financially poor, but, as well, to those who suffer spiritual poverty. For we, who through that charitable effort, in filling a stomach, may likely open a heart; through which God can enter and heal a soul.
“For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in… Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we administer these things to you? And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.” – (Matthew 25:35-40)
One who seeks a better life, just may find it by making life better for another.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL.