The Thanksgiving celebrations of my childhood were so much better than our current Thanksgivings, and for this, I apologize to the three of you. We are now spread out over three states, and when air travel is involved, Thanksgiving is the worse time to get together. That is why I understand that it will be a rare time, if ever, that we all spend Thanksgiving together.
Every American celebrates this holiday, so the airlines take advantage of this fact, making travel by airplane expensive and unpleasant because of the crowds. I admit I never realized this until I moved away, thinking , as I would go to my class reunions every ten years, ”Thanksgiving is the best time to have such gatherings.” Wrong, wrong, wrong!
Growing up, we spent our Thanksgivings at Aunt Marian’s house because she had the most space for our huge family. Our early Turkey Day celebrations involved our family, hers, and Uncle Rich’s gang, which made the number a cozy 26, including our grandmother.
As the cousins married and had children, that number continued to expand until, at some point, Uncle Rich’s family stopped coming.
The festivities began the night before with the “Annual Traditional Pre-Thanksgiving Day Table Setting Party.” The official purpose was to set the tables, make place cards, and decide on the seating arrangements. I think that some of the meal preparation which could be done in advance happened Wednesday night. Personally, I think it was just a reason to get the cocktail shaker going.
During those days, Thanksgiving morning began with the Boonton-Parsippany football game, and since Uncle Rich’s kids went to Parsippany High, that made for good family trash talk.
We arrived at the Palazzo house on Cornelia Street some time after the game, and all the kids squeezed into the family room to watch March of the Wooden Soldiers while the grown-ups finished cooking the meal. I know at least one of my siblings continues that tradition, but I am fairly certain none of you girls have ever watched it. I guess we will have to do that at some point.
There were particular items which could not be omitted, such as mashed potatoes, applesauce, peas for sending aloft on airplanes constructed from the place cards, and the most important—stuffed mushrooms. At least I have continued the tradition of making the mushrooms!
Sometime after dinner, we retired to the living room, and Aunt Marian would put on a record by a piano-playing duo named Russ and Eddie and the three aunts would burst into song. While they sang, we would watch the younger kids dance. I was particularly happy when I checked out the recording on Amazon to see this song among their repertoire: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRPafEjTCcc&list=PLtX2dZaW8Gf4fueLvHkLF0pzyCMQdSHKV&index=12
At some point, perhaps it was even prior to the sing-a-long, an assortment of after dinner ”cordials” would be brought to the table and we were allowed to pick one to try. Among the bottles would be Crème de Menthe, Amaretto, and Sambuca. It made me feel very grown-up.
Since we always ate very early in the day, after the food compacted itself in our stomachs, we would later drift into the kitchen for round two, this time hitting up the leftovers.
These were such great memories, but now, alas, my Thanksgiving celebrations today are so small. Last year, there were only five of us. That’s what happens when you move far, far away from the center of the universe.