Tuesday 06 Dec 2016

Only Thanksgiving
AJ Robinson

Back, when I was a teenager that was my attitude each year: it was only Thanksgiving. Whats the big deal? Who cares, right? Then I went off to college a college far from home and suddenly I couldnt get home for Thanksgiving.

Suddenly, the day seemed important. I was off in Atlanta, and the city tended to close down for the day; the college cafeterias didnt even stay open. For me, the meal became a burger at The V, which is short for The Varsity. it was a restaurant started by a Georgia Tech dropout who wanted to show the school that he didnt need no stinking diploma from them to succeed in life. It was one of the few places to stay open that day. Id walk on over there, have a couple burgers, fries, a Coke, of course, the company has its headquarters there, and then top it off with a chocolate shake.

Some banquet, eh?

Then it was back to my room to wait for the phone calls from my family. In a way, I wasnt sure I looked forward to that or not; it was nice, and yet it wasnt. That may sound like some sort of Zen riddle, but the fact that I knew they were going to call that day served as a painful reminder of the fact that they rarely called any other time of the year.

I also noticed something else, on TV there were all kinds of Christmas specials about people being alone for the holidays, seeking a means of relief, and in the end finding love, companionship, or merely someone to share the holiday with. But, there were never any shows like that about people being alone for Thanksgiving; that was a rather overlooked holidays.

I also thought back to the Thanksgivings of my youth, to the dinners my Mom prepared back in Arlington. Shed be up early getting that monstrous bird-zilla stuffed and shoved in the oven. By the time I was up, it was time to work on the peas and cranberry relish, the potatoes, and so on and so forth. My job and I dearly loved it was grinding up the cranberries. Mom had a huge cast iron grinder that bolted to the edge of the table, and then Id turn the crank and pour the berries in, along with the slices of oranges. The thing was, I hated eating the stuff; I could never stomach it, but I did enjoy making it.

Then there was the company. Grandmother and Grandfather would arrive always bringing pies or some other dish; sometimes Aunt Marny and Uncle George would drive up from Barrington, and then my older brothers whichever ones were in town that year would show up. Then there would be friends like Carrie Bartlett and others who might join us. Thanksgiving was truly the first holiday of the fall/winter season to bring friends and family together, and we always had a good time.

None of us was much interested in football, so wed just watch the Macys Parade, chat and wait for Mom to ring the dinner bell. The dining room table would be set with our best china and Mom and Dads wedding silverware. Once she gave the word, wed switch off the TV and get in there to our seats. Dad would always say grace, and then hed carve the bird as we started to dish up the food and what food there was! My Mom is Italian, which means properly armed she could crank out enough food to feed fifty people, and she did.

An hour or so later, after inhaling several pounds of food each, wed clear the table and stagger to the living room to try and recover. After all, we still had pie apple, pumpkin and (my favorite) blueberry to get through.

Year in, year out, the meal varied very little. The company changed and, eventually, so did the location, but the core value: friends and family coming together, in one place, for one afternoon or evening, remained the same. It wasnt until my college days, facing the prospect of Thanksgiving alone that I truly saw the value of the day; isnt that always the case?

Now, today, I have a family and friends, and each year we make a point of getting together with at least some of them for that special day. This year was particularly important; you see, our daughter is a senior in high school. Next fall, shell be off at college, and she may not make it home for T-Day. We wanted this one to be just a little bit special.

A lesson to us all: make an effort to make those holidays special, even if its just by calling those we love; you never know where youll be and theyll be come the next Thanksgiving.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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