In my traditional opinion, Thursday begins another holiday season. It’s my favorite time of year, preferable even to the dog days of summer.
In the rapidly receding past, there was a time when entire extended families, including aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents, would still meet at Aunt Piddypat’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. During my timeless childhood days, at least 20 people sat down for dinner, usually at my parents’ place. (The dining room table was extended by using a couple of sawhorses, a sheet of plywood and a card table or two.) There was a lot of cigar smoke.
While my cousin and I played with Lincoln Logs or a coffee can full of various trinkets and small toys, the men sat in the living room and talked about local businesses, politics and colorful personalities they knew. My great uncles were old men with thick Polish accents. They wore their Sunday-best clothes; i.e., dark suits sprinkled with cigar ash, vests and garters on their shirt sleeves.
The women also donned their finest holiday attire. My younger aunts had relatively short skirts, but my great aunt wore a long black dress with a high, tight, button-down neck – certainly not the most comfortable outfit when laboring over a hot stove.
You see, women were in the kitchen doing all the work. Nevertheless, they enjoyed themselves. That was especially true of my mother; Thanksgiving dinner was quite possibly the high point of her entire year. Instead of cigar smoke, the kitchen was heavily laden with the rich fragrance of roast turkey, dressing and gravy.
Today, such large family gatherings are increasingly rare, except in rural areas. In my particular case, my mother was the most important link connecting various sides of the family and, with her death, everyone scattered. Of course, my relatives still try to get together, especially parents and children, but in many cases this means flying coast to coast – and flying isn’t much fun anymore. I have cousins in Seattle and Puyallup, but they spend Thanksgiving in their own little enclaves. My sister and her son are out on the coast somewhere.
However, don’t take this the wrong way. This column isn’t a complaint or a cry for greater family unity. Rather, it’s simply an observation of the changing nature of American families.
Whatever your situation, I hope you have a splendid Thanksgiving. And let me take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very happy and most glorious holiday season. Cheers!