So, here we are, the day before what will certainly be a very different looking Thanksgiving for most of us. Most of us will painfully forgo the normal holiday fare this year: the gatherings of family and friends, the traveling to Grandma’s house, even the prospect of hosting your first big family dinner. Yup, there’s no getting away from the fact that 2020 has been a very difficult year and will likely trail into 2021.
As I think about this year and what it’s done to me and what’s it’s done overall, I have to admit it has gotten on my last nerve. Not being able to surround myself with the people I love during my most favorite holiday will be a reality that I grow from. Is it painful? Yes, of course it is. Will it kill me? No. We all need to remember: tough times don’t last, people do.
When I think back to my beginnings in Queens, New York, I think about a few things that always make me smile that had to do with hanging with my Winchester Boulevard crew. But when I stop and really think about it, it’s those huge family gatherings we always had, those are the memories that take over. My mom was the youngest of five sisters and I always remember them arriving one by one throughout the day in our little yellow post-war home. Usually my Aunt Lucille and grandmother were the first to arrive, followed by my Aunt Jo and then my Aunt Nanette; one of my aunts was already living in Vermont so we didn’t get to see her as much as we would have liked. The kitchen would start to bustle as they all stood around cooking turkeys, big pans of ziti, and everything else you could throw out onto an Italian table.
For those that don’t know, I’m a huge fan of calamari. I know it’s a strange thing to bring up, but it was because of one of these Thanksgiving gatherings, when my Aunt Jo was frying them up and giving them to me while telling me they were baby onion rings. I would eat it while all four sisters laughed at me with more love than any one body should be able to absorb. I didn’t care, I was eating and safe, and that was truly all that mattered. When we would finally sit around the table the stories would start to fly around. My Aunt Jo brought a “friend” one year and he told us about this idea he was pitching to American Express while all my uncles wished him well in that manner that says only a fool would think that would work. The following year when he came back to Thanksgiving, he brought each of us a copy of Money Card, the game he successfully pitched to American Express.
Later in life my wife and I would host the gatherings and they would look much different than the ones in Queens. They were filled with tons of friends and family, sometimes 30-35 people. The house would be so hot that we would have to open up windows and doors just to cool it off. My in-laws would drive in from Michigan to be a part of the festivities and I always looked forward to seeing them and hanging with them. We continued that tradition right up until my mother-in-law passed away. She was a big football fan that would often swear at the TV right along with me when someone dropped the ball.
My dad always took his spot at the head of the table and carved the turkey while we all waited for him to get done, something he still does to this day. But this year is going to look very different for a lot of us. Never in a million years did I think that we would need to refer to the CDC website on how or if we could gather. There’s a lot in 2020 that has stopped making sense, but we all need to simply power through it. It will not feel very good, but we will get through it. Maya Angelou once said, “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” So, here’s hoping that you can find the strength to get through, because we will and when we do, we’ll be stronger for it. Happy Thanksgiving. Be well!