Wednesday, November 26, 2008
The night before Thanksgiving
For the last few years, Dick and I have spent Thanksgiving with friends. It's fun. We eat too much and then complain about how full we are. We might play some music. It's laid back, not at all like the family Thanksgivings of my childhood.
I really love this holiday. I do give thanks, much to the dismay of most people I know, who act like I'm trying to give them an overly long hug. I suppose it's rather mushy, giving thanks. Sometimes I even try to get everyone to hold hands before the meal starts, but I'll try to restrain myself this year.
I am just too darned sincere.
I like Thanksgiving because anyone can celebrate it. It's not like Christmas, where if you're not a Christian, you have to come up with justifications for celebrating, like "it's an American holiday" and "let's pretend it's a solstice thing with presents" or some such. And it's not like, when I was a kid, celebrating Passover, where we'd make matzoh ball soup and I'd ask "what is this holiday about?" My parents would shrug their shoulders and mumble something incomprehensible.
I enjoyed my family's Thanksgivings when I was young. We ate ourselves silly. Some people would predictably fall asleep ten minutes after the meal was over, and the rest of us would play board games.
There was the usual weird stuff, the kind one sees in movies about crazy families. Near the end of his life, my grandfather developed kleptomania. The last Thanksgiving before both he and my mother died, she had to frisk him before he left her apartment. He had filled every pocket he had. Out came candlesticks, cutlery and small knick-knacks.
Another time someone decided that politely passing dishes around was too much bother and they (who did it?!) threw a small chicken across the table like a football.
The same stories and jokes were told, every single year. I'll end here, with the not-very-funny joke that was told, with great gusto, by my father, and that I feel obligated to tell, even if it's not at all funny, because it'll be Thanksgiving in about forty minutes:
A woman asks her son to take care of things while she goes on vacation. It's the usual; water the plants, make sure there isn't a gas leak and feed the cat. He's a dutiful son, and so, he does a good job. But the cat gets sick, and before he can get the poor animal to a vet, the cat dies.
He calls his mother in Florida and says, "Ma, I got bad news. The cat's dead." After she gets over the shock, his mother chastizes him; "What's wrong with you? Couldn't you have given me the news in a more charitable way?" "Like what?", asks the son. "Oh, you could called me and said that the cat was on the roof and you didn't know what to do. Then I would have told you to call the fire department. You'd hang up, pretend to call them, call me back and say that they're running a bit late but the cat's okay. You'd tell me that you'd call back as soon as they got there.Then, after about twenty minutes or so, you'd call and tell me the cat fell off the roof. See? Then, I would have been prepared for the worst!"
The son tells his mother that indeed he was insensitive by delivering the news to her in such a sudden way.
The next year, the man's mother goes to Florida again, but this time it's an all-girls thing. Being the dutiful son, he spends time with his father, who isn't used to being alone. His father is not a well man, and sadly, one night, after a particularly rich meal, he keels over and has a heart attack.
Of course, the son has to call his mother and tell her the news. So, he makes the call. "Having fun down in Florida?", he asks his mother when she picks up the phone. She replies, "Why wouldn't I? What's wrong with you? And so, how are things down in New York?" The son pauses for a moment and says,"Well, Ma, Dad went up to the roof earlier tonight."
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Painting note: I have never liked Norman Rockwell.
This painting is called "Freedom from Want" and is from a series he painted in 1943 entitled the "Four Freedoms."