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Remembering Thanksgivings Past

It has been rightfully said that, "you can never go home again". But, in our memories we can go back to the home we remember, and relive the holidays we so enjoyed. My first memorable Thanksgiving Day comes to mind. It was back in 1935. I was 11 years old, and had just come to live with my father, his wife Lil, and her daughter Elaine.

It was a cool and cloudy day. My father, Elaine and I went to Manhattan (we lived in the Bronx) to see the famous yearly event known as "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade".


After the parade we headed back home, making a stop at the neighborhood bakery to pick up fresh rye bread. As we walked in to our apartment, we were hit by the wonderful aroma of roasting turkey, mixed with the smell of the various fresh vegetables being cooked. On the table were apple and mince pies, and a pumpkin pie, still warm (made special for me).

Now, while Lil and Elaine worked in the kitchen, my father sat in the livingroom and read the newspaper. I set the makeshift dining room table for 12 people, then off I went to a neighbor's apartment to borrow 4 bridge chairs. About 4 p.m. everyone began arriving, my aunts, uncles, grandmother, and a couple of longtime friends of my father.

It was good to be with the family, and to learn what was happening in each ones life. I liked hearing their stories of yesteryear, and particularly the friend who told me, as he held his hand at his belt level, that he remembered when I "was this high". At 5 o'clock came the long awaited moment..."Tom" was introduced to the hungry group!

And now it was every man (or woman) for themself! The knives and forks flashed as the dinner, consisting of roasted turkey with chestnut stuffing, mashed potato's, candied yams, green peas, creamed pearl onions, mashed turnips, carrots, celery, olives, and cranberry sauce, was fully attacked!

When the onslaught was finished, everyone retired to more comfortable seating in the livingroom. The men loosened their belts as the women loosened whatever it is that women loosen. Lil cleared the table, while Elaine and I did the dishes. She washed, I dried. When we were finished Elaine joined the others in the livingroom. I put on a sweater and went up on the roof for a breather, away from the smokers in the livingroom. The evening air was cold, but mixed with the smell of autumn it was delightful.

(As I write this I see myself back on that roof, and I can still smell that cold, crisp autumn air).

When I went back into the apartment, Lil was setting the table again. This time she filled it with the apple, mince, and pumpkin pies. There were also bowls of jello, and of tapioca, each covered with whipped cream. In the center of the table was a large bowl of fresh fruits and mixed nuts. And lets not forget the coffee and tea. Yes, lots of coffee.

As these desserts were being placed on the table, almost everyone was complaining that they were "stuffed", and made statements to the effect of, "Who can eat so much". But, all the remarks did nothing to slow the new attack at the goodies! Fortunately for me, Lil had kept one pumpkin pie in the kitchen. That was mine! After eating, everyone began to leave. Most had to travel at least for an hour to get home. No one had an automobile. All traveled by subway.

It was about 9 o'clock when everyone had gone, Elaine and I cleared the table, and went back to doing the dishes. This time I washed, she dried. Lil then roasted some chestnuts in the oven. When everything was cleaned up, the 4 of us sat down in the livingroom, ate the chestnuts, and discussed the events of the day. My father was more interested in listening to the radio, trying to find the results of the football games played that day.

"Good Bye"

The following Thanksgivings were similar to that day in 1935. The same relatives and friends usually attended. The Thanksgiving dinners continued until 1942, when I entered the army. However, none of them stand out in my memory as that one in 1935. Other than that Thanksgiving Day, I never went to a another Macy's parade until many years later when my wife and I had the pleasure of taking our daughter to see the parade.

No, you can never go back home again.
But, home can come back to you.