Monday, November 21, 2011

Home for Thanksgiving

Tommy is home.

Enthroned upstairs at his laptop, he is working from here for the week and I am flitting back and forth bringing him things to eat and drink despite his desperate pleas to "Just leave me alone, for the love of God, Mom!

I cannot.

In the spirit of my Great Uncle, who used to think that the funniest thing on earth was to wake a soundly napping family member and ask them, with great urgency, if they were thirsty or hungry, I must run about on bent legs and offer snacks if you're peckish, sweatshirts if you're chilly, hot tea if you're get the idea

If you're bored, I will also perform a stand-up routine that I practice on the cats but they'll laugh at anything, so it might not be very good. Plus it might contain a few jokes too many about raw fish and dead mice.

In view of all this, I am re-running a Thanksgiving post from last November that no one read because this blog was so new. I hope you enjoy it....
Me and the Aunts

I grew up in a Brooklyn brownstone crammed to the rafters with family. 

Maiden aunts downstairs, their apartment was my destination for endless games of cards and hide and seek.

You remember this...

Two old ladies with infinite patience and endless cans of fruit cocktail lining their pantry shelves, they served the syrupy treat in fluted pink glass dishes and would always spoon over their maraschino cherries to me, the only child in the house.

I lived on the middle floor. Sharing the "railroad flat" with my mother and my grandparents, I snuck Hershey's Kisses from the "chocolate drawer" and spent endless hours reading by the bay window which looked out on the most beautiful street in New York City--simply by virtue of the fact that it was my street.

My best friend and playmate, Wendy, lived on the corner. My grammar school was a block in the other direction and my world was small and insulated. I had no concept of the stresses my mother dealt with on a daily basis--money worries and a violent ex-husband, large among them. 

Upstairs, on the top floor, lived my uncle and aunt. It was there, through my Tia Maria, that I learned to love Spanish tele-novelas (even though I had to deduce the story line solely from the eye-brow arching and musical clues), fried plaintains and jibaro music from the hills of Puerto Rico. Their apartment, filled with cats and sunshine,was another safe haven for a little girl.

On Thanksgiving, everyone would convene downstairs at what appeared to be a huge table. If you looked closely, you could see that its' expanse was pieced together from several tables of almost imperceptibly varying heights and widths.

Me and the cook.

Covered with table cloths--some brought across the ocean from Hungary in huge steamer trunks, the irregularities didn't matter. And, when piled high with the culinary efforts of several different participating cooks, you couldn't tell at all. 

My grandmother did the lion's share of the cooking. There is no one as patriotic or as determined to celebrate an American holiday as a grateful immigrant who owed her life and ensuing progeny to the beneficence of an adoptive land. This was grandma..and she'd start cooking days before the big event.

The meal started with soup and went on to include turkey, chicken and brisket, three or four types of stuffing, cranberry sauce from a can at which we all would marvel due to its texture and jiggly nature and mountains of fluffy mashed potatoes. Overflowing its bowl, Hungarian cucumber salad, vinegary and tart, made us blink and green glass bottles of soda punctuated the already colorful spread.

We'd all eat like we were proving our right to citizenship with every delicious mouthful. Dessert was homemade strudels--apple and cheese--made upstairs on a small formica kitchen table from dough stretched thin enough so that through it, newsprint could be read.

Coffee was drunk light, cigars were smoked indoors and I often fell asleep, leaning against my mother's cool arm, tummy stretched to bursting. I enjoyed the snug sleep reserved for lucky children.

I was thankful then, only I didn't realize it.
(to be continued.....)


  1. This was beautiful. It brought me back top my own Thanksgivings at home a long time ago.

    We're Italian but the immigrant experience is all the same and we had ziti instead of cucumber salad.

  2. Nice. Once the holidays die down, remind me to ask you how to get my cats laughing. They are broken or I am simply not funny. I insist on the first, they could care less what I think...


  3. Thank you, Angela...I totally agree on the shared immigrant experience. Cucumber salad or ziti--it doesn't matter.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Scott, cats toy with your emotions when it comes to laughter. Also, they have very perverse senses of humor. Keep trying.

    Thanks for reading.

  5. Very nice nostalgia. I enjoyed this.

  6. I'm glad, Josie. Thanks for the nice comment!

  7. I grew up with a bunch of "new" Americans, too. And you're right, they celebrated holidays like Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July with a passion. Nice memories.

  8. We still do the Fourth big and noisy...thanks for stopping by, Helene.

  9. I have always envied America because you have Thanksgiving and we do not. Anything that encourages us to be grateful, is a grand idea - in my humble opinion :-)
    I hope it is a great day for you - I know you will love having the boys home XO

  10. You know I will love having the boys home! Consider a trip to America next Thanksgiving...and then I can be grareful for having such a good friend at my table. XO

  11. I know you're just loving having him back home. He'll probably be lucky if he doesn't gain 5 lbs from all your TLC.

    I still find it amazing when I realize how many families back in the 50's had multiple generations in one house. I never knew even one down here who did.

  12. I'm glad to be reading your blogs once again, Susan. Ju probably don't remember me, but I always appreciate a good read. A great writer even more. And a diverse family the most

  13. Of course I remember you, LeDocteur! Thank you so much for your kind comment. I'm very glad you're reading again and I know I told you that you should be writing!

    Have a great holiday and I hope to hear from you again.

  14. Possess the heart operate shirts shipped yet?

    Also visit my web site; crossfit workout routine for Beginners