It was thrilling. Beyond thrilling. Freedom from school, John Jay Audubon #42, for four whole days. School, that place of such potential shame and separateness. Four days home, with nobody to make me read aloud, the scourge of my ten-year-old existence.
Turkey and stuffing—like with matzoh balls and Passover, my mom held the integrity of holiday-specific food. Chances are turkey and stuffing would not pass over our table again for 364 more days, to my dismay.
And I’m going to high school football game…with my daddy!
My childhood favorite.
Our town had two high schools, the academic one, Central High, and the technical school, named, without irony, Tech. The traditional Thanksgiving game between these two arch-ish rivals was a no-brainer. The tech guys, who we quietly referred to as juvenile delinquents, most always blew away us academic kids. Nevertheless, the thrill of the game was razor-edge-real. Well before my unglamorous high school career launched, I have a deep body memory of a specific Thanksgiving Day, football game and all.
Memory Number One: I stand in our living room, ready to go to the game. I am padded to the gills with 1950’s non-thinsulite, non-patagonia, non-fleece layers, inevitably inept to protect me from the bitter cold of this Thanksgiving morning, circa 1958. Unable to rest my arms against my sides, because of the many layers of insufficient materials padding my young body, I stand, sweating and waiting, waiting for my daddy who was miraculously home, not working, for one of the three days per year that he did not work. He didn’t have chest pain and he didn’t have to nap. He was taking me to the game! I shiver with sweaty anticipation. My dad, the football game……life is awesome.
Memory fades into darkness.
Memory Number Two: On frozen feet I waddle toward our front door. Icicles seem to hang from my damp hood. Already the details of the game fade—we lost, of course, to the bigger, stronger and tougher kids, perhaps some life lesson unfolding. I am partially mobile as I struggle to make my way, my daddy ahead, toward our house. I somehow enter the living room and stand in the same spot as before.
I magically descend into a cloud of vapors, warmed and delicious and magically thanksgiving-like smells. Yet beyond smell I am enveloped in the embrace of it, the warm scent/taste/feeling of that moment, thawing me from inside, out.
The delight of it!
Food, but more—
Love, but more—
Family, but more—
Excitement, but more—
Feasting, oh, but so much more—
All tumbling together into me, smell and feel and warmth defrosting my frozen feet, opening my little girl heart and stimulating my excited belly. If I could have stayed in that moment forever, a child on the morning of Thanksgiving, where life, growing in its complication, is stopped, held in the sheer scent of my mother’s care and the tender touch of my daddy’s kindness. If I could have simply stayed there, right there, for always and forever. But, alas, this memory, too, tumbles into the darkness of ions of silence.
Final memory: standing, awed, gawking at my mom’s dining room table set with starched white table cloth, filled with plates of food, giant turkey, cranberry sauce still bearing the imprint of the 1950’s circular can (who knew?), mashed potatoes, completely unusual for our family of perpetual dieters, and more and more, an abundance of more.
I am blitzed with feelings, awed, overwhelmed, excited/and/thrilled/and happy/and hungry/and so very, very young.
I am so very, very young. And I am so very, very safe. I am so very, very loved, in that tiny, forever held moment of memory.
And this too, this memory too, evaporates.
Many, too many Thanksgivings have passed since that day. That house on Arthur Avenue, my mother, my daddy, long gone from this realm. Yet somewhere deep inside of me lives this child, ridiculously readied, waiting for the smells of love, the warmth of family, the depth of Thanksgiving’s cellular imprint to again open my life and fill up my belly, to fill up my hungry, hungry heart with love.
And dear readers, what about you? Do you have recollections of Thanksgiving from your childhood? Please send them on—I am firstname.lastname@example.org.
May your Thanksgiving be abundant with blessings, warmed with love, and alive with gratitude.
Prayers and love to you and yours,