Friday, September 11, 2009


The one day a year that Dad was guaranteed a day off from work was Thanksgiving Day. Even restaurants closed on Thanksgiving, and restaurant workers got to spend the day with their families. Linda, Gus and Tim especially liked Thanksgiving, because it meant that they were entering the season before Christmas when stores would decorate their windows and presents were in the offing.

In their hometown, there was a Thanksgiving Day parade to rival the New York City Macy's parade. One year, Dad shepherded his family downtown to view the parade in person. Everyone went to the parade except Mom, who stayed home to cook the traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner, so that it would be ready mid-afternoon when everyone got home.

Like the Macy's parade, this one was sponsored by the town's big department store. It was difficult to get close enough to the edge of the sidewalk to see the parade coming down the street, and it got awfully cold by the time the parade was over. There were vendors on the street who sold cotton candy and roasted chestnuts, and Dad bought each of his children a treat of their choice. Linda really liked the smell of the roasted chestnuts, and they were warm in her hands even if she did have to remove her wool gloves to peel the skin off each chestnut before eating it. From the gang of three's point of view, the best part of attending the parade occurred near the end when the candy-striped girl elves and the green-clad boy elves tossed hard candies to the parade-goers as they skipped down the street doing somersaults and cartwheels in front of Santa's float.

The gang of three visited Santa Claus at the big department store only once when Linda was nine years old and sporting a nasty scab across her nose and cheek. Although Nancy bought the photographs sold by Santa's girl elves of each of her three children sitting on Santa's lap, Linda's photo was spoiled by the scab on her face which she had received in a fight. Grandmother criticized her son's wife, Nancy, for allowing Linda to have her photograph taken with the very noticeable blemish on her face. Grandmother thought it was unseemly.

The family had moved to the new neighborhood just as winter break was starting, and the gang of three were the new kids on the block. Little Tim was only six and didn't know what to do when the kids on the new block taunted him for being a kid from an ethnicity that didn't live in the neighborhood. However, when one of the boys decided to push and then punch Tim, he spoke up and said, "You better watch out or my big sister will beat you up."

Children can sometimes be very cruel to other children, picking on them for no better reason than because they're bigger and they can. One day when Linda was outside playing with Gus and Tim and the bully picked on Tim again, Linda let him have it. She hit him really hard, and the boy hit her back. Linda ended up with a cut on her face where her eyeglasses got smashed into her face, but she was pleased to have landed some good punches that left sizable black and blue welts on the boy. Linda was only doing what she had taken as her responsibility - to look after her little brothers when Mom and Dad weren't around. None of the three siblings ever got picked on again on the block after that first and last fight.

After the parade Dad took Linda, Gus and Tim to look at the window displays at the big department store. Each window had a winter wonderland scene with animated characters and animals, and music was piped from speakers under the awnings protecting the people on the sidewalk from the snow and rain. The big department store took up a whole city block, and there were twelve scenes depicting the twelve nights of Christmas to delight everyone who passed by. Later when Linda went to the magnet high school downtown, she would spend the time between transferring buses visiting each display window until she knew them by heart.

Thanksgiving Day was special because of the time and attention that Dad was able to pay to his children since he got to stay home from work. Thanksgiving dinner was the one meal a year when the entire family, Mom, Dad, Linda, Gus and Tim all sat down and ate together. Nancy always served roast turkey with cranberry sauce out of a can and homemade stuffing at Ted's insistence.

When Ted's sisters were still in school, his youngest sister, Merry, came home very upset from the first school day after Thanksgiving. Her teacher had asked the class how they enjoyed their "turkey day." Merry had burst into tears, because Grandmother had prepared goose for Thanksgiving dinner and not turkey. Grandmother and Grandfather preferred goose and duck with their rich dark meats, which they were used to eating in their home country, to the white turkey meat that Americans ate to celebrate Thanksgiving. Ted was just a teenager himself, but he had vowed then and there that when he had a family of his own, his children would eat turkey on "turkey day" and not goose or duck.

The food choices and meals that Nancy prepared reflected her ethnic background and what she was used to eating. You'll have to wait until another night to hear about those dishes and their unusual ingredients.

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