Saturday, December 3, 2016

Happy Belated Thanksgiving

i ran this little memory just before Thanksgiving. It got so many nice responses and provoked so many warm holiday memories that i'm reprinting it here. thanks for indulging me : So its Thursday. And my folks are loading up the car for a trip to Brooklyn. My sister's birthday, my Uncle Gus' and mine are all grouped together around Thanksgiving so every year its a 4-way celebration with lots of food and cake and seltzer and pretzels and cranberry sauce and delicious Greek olives.Uncle Gus (and my Aunt Eva) live in a stately building in Brooklyn with massive revolving glass doors and a magnificent elevator. They've lived in this apartment for nearly 30 years and in some places thick light green wall paint covers up the electrical sockets, and the windows that overlook the courtyard sometimes stick. But today it's packed wall to wall with relatives we almost never see -- some distant, others no one is quite sure how they fit in -- and everyone is smiling and laughing and kibbitzing and carrying seltzer or soda or mixed drinks in beautiful clear glasses with baroque gold carvings on the side. The TV is always on -- usually its tuned to The March of the Wooden Soldiers or a football game. While a few of the men watch it, most people are engaged in catch up conversation. They occupy plush chairs and a small green couch and folding chairs, arms and legs everywhere. A long card table, covered over with an even longer white tablecloth and overflowing with warm challah and buns, and SevenUp and blue bottles of seltzer and Seagram 7 and place dishes and napkins and utensils, fills the center of the room. Everything happens around the hub of the table. Crossing the room to join another conversation or to visit the restroom in the hall, beside the bedroom, can be an arduous task. But today everyone is in a good mood and wherever you light there is something interesting going on. Harry is telling me how he knew my Mom when she was a little girl; Peter (my Uncle's handsome friend from Greece) is regaling that group over there with tales of Cyprus; Sylvia is talking to Rose (who is nearly 100) who is talking to my Grandmother Molly or Aunt Sarah.. Gus is busy in the kitchen. He joined the Army when he was 40 (he lied about his age in reverse) and they put him in charge of the Mess. So cooking today for 30 or more people is really not a big deal. He boils dozens of potatoes at one time, cooks gallons of yams and cranberry sauce all at once, and takes special pride in turning out a golden turkey every time. Buckets of stuffing, deep dishes of slaw and gravy and mashed potatoes and baked potatoes and kasha varnishkes and french cut beans. And of course a large sheet cake from Ratchik's Bakery for our collective birthdays (but mostly his). Gus oversees everything - a pudgy dopple ganger of MGM's "Cuddles" Sakall - with black glasses, thinning hair and a quick ready laugh. He had been President of the Furriers Union at one time (that's a big deal) and had been sad to retire from a job he loved. Now, cooking for Army-sized appetites again, he was back in his element. After dinner, me and my Dad and brother sneak up to the roof. The entire building is five or six stories high and you can stand and look over the parapet at the street below. Sometimes people would be hurrying by with their collars cinched up against the cold. A short blast of a car horn would sound weird and echo from this vantage point. If you spit over the side of the building, you could watch it in its slow-motion descent and even hear a small splat in the street below. I wrote a small note about Gus and his Thanksgivings for Reminisce magazine a few years ago. His parties - festive and full of good cheer and humanity - were an annual event for many years. (To this day, i still secrete a can of cranberry sauce and delicious Greek olives whereever i happen to celebrate turkey day). Many of the people we dined with are no longer here. But whether they're here or hereafter, whether friends and relatives are here or away, whether apartments have changed hands and spitting from the rooftop no longer possesses the mystery and magic it once held , we tip a drumstick in their direction, and remember. For all the souls who've touched our loves on this very special day, for the family and friends we still gather with or talk to on the phone or send a letter to or only (as they say in church) remember in the silence of our hearts, they ALL share a special place at our table on this holiday and for as long as memories last. Gobble till ya wobble! :) for more memories by this author, please check out >>

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