Dad and I have been trying to figure out when we began to celebrate the other Thanksgiving and who initiated it. What we do recall is that it evolved from a conversation with a few of Dad’s friends about how much we all enjoyed Thanksgiving, but since it is typically a family holiday, we would never be able to celebrate turkey day with our friends. But why couldn’t we just choose an earlier day in October or November and then gather with our friends and create a second Thanksgiving? Why not?
Thus began a new tradition. Sometime between 1978 and 1980, we picked a date and a venue and doled out menu assignments. I believe the first celebration was at Steve and Donna’s apartment. You may not know, but Steve and Dad have been friends since third grade. That friendship has lasted as long as mine with Karen—55 years. That alone is cause for a celebration!
The original gathering was small. There were only six of us—Steve and Donna, Mickey and Ivonne, Dad and me. No children, just three old friends and their wives. I believe, though, that I was the odd person out since everyone but I grew up in Yonkers. But as you know, they are all great friends and I always felt like I was part of the gang rather than the new kid on the block.
We each contributed something from our own family traditions. I remember that the most unique dish was when Ivonne hosted dinner and we had a Cuban turkey, which much to Dad’s delight, meant a spiced turkey stuffed with peppers and onions.
Somewhere along the line, Dave married Barbara and they were added to this other Thanksgiving feast as were Billy and Robin. Each year, we alternated houses, and as the babies came, the number of seats at the table increased. I think, in the end, we had somewhere around twenty-ish.
When we moved to New Jersey, the dinners ended up at our house most of the time—over the river and through the woods to our house they came! Sadly, once we moved to the South, the dinners ended. As far as I know, no one continued the tradition. But for twenty-five years, we always had our special dinners.
We have kept in touch and have gotten together just a few times in New York. The last time was at Jamie’s wedding last year. I am sad to have seen this wonderfully special and unique tradition end. What is more amazing than the number of years we had these celebrations is the fact that among these five couples, there has not been a single divorce. That is so rare today. The only marriage not intact is because of death, not divorce.
Every year I think of those dinners. I miss them and cannot believe we did not take a single picture.