Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Small Town Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a terrific holiday, but it just doesn’t get its due anymore.

For some people, it’s just an inconvenience that comes after Halloween and delays the start of the Christmas season.  Of course most of those people work in advertising and marketing but I suspect there are a lot of other folks ready to haul out the blow up Santas the minute they put away the blow up pumpkins.

Looking back, I guess Thanksgiving has always had to live in the shadow of Christmas, especially when it comes to cozy hometown traditions.  Growing up in a small town like Port Chester, through the 60s and 70’s, I have few, if any, enduring homegrown memories of Thanksgivings past.  We didn’t have a big parade like the White Plains Macy’s version of the New York parade they held for a while, a loooong time ago, which was very cool.  There were no high flying balloons, or any balloons for that matter, but they did bring in some of the floats and I do recall seeing Jay North as Dennis the Menace wave to me…kind of.  I think Bozo may have been there too, but Bozo was everywhere back then, and I suspect he might have just been the guy from the luggage department on his way back from lunch.

I recall learning how to draw a Turkey by tracing around my hand at my now defunct catholic grammar school. To this day I can’t look at my hand without seeing a Turkey.

We also had the annual collection of canned foods that were made into baskets for those who, we were told, were less fortunate than we were. But as a kid, at OLM catholic grammar school, sorting through cans of corn nibblets, beets and string beans, it was hard to imagine anyone less fortunate than you…at least at that particular moment.  Not that we were unhappy to help the unfortunate, but because we were being watched over by a gaggle of scary nuns who sported those mysterious black habits with those big, baggy sleeves, suitable for storing all sorts of items, from tissues to rulers to an unconfirmed sighting of a set of brass knuckles.  I think they actually parked the convent station wagon in one of those big sleeves.

Then there was the annual Turkey raffle, which my mom won one year. Unfortunately, the turkey was a bit too small for our extended family at the time, so the butcher agreed to hold it in the freezer for a while and we ate it around Bastille Day, once we remembered it was still at the butcher shop.

Now, I know, there’s a Turkey Trot in town, which is a bit of a local tradition, but we didn’t have anything like that in the 60’s. The closest thing I remember to a Turkey Trot back then was after we ate the afore mentioned Turkey that had been frozen for 8 months.

I didn’t go to my local High School since I attended, at least in body, yet another parochial school in White Plains. Parochial school…the place where we were told that hundreds of other girls and boys, again, less fortunate than us, were dying to take our seats. I found that hard to believe, since “A”, the seats were about 100 years old and weren’t all that comfortable and “B”, I never once came across a single girl or boy who tried to take it away from me, which I would have gladly turned over without  fight.

But I digress….

So, having not attended PC High, I’m unaware of any traditional Thanksgiving football rivalries to speak of.  However, I did sneak into a game once by marching in with the band at half time…or at least I tried. I also tried to wrangle a free hot dog from the guy in the sandwich truck by saying I was with the band, but it had no effect. Apparently the band had to pay.

So most of my hometown Thanksgiving memories come down to personal remembrances of large family gatherings with parents and grandparents, Aunts and Uncles and an assortment of  cousins, most of which who along with myself, were relegated to the ever popular Kid Table” in the living room. I was always a big fan of the Turkey drum stick because it made me feel like Old King Cole, which helped temper my low self-esteem issues. One of my cousins, always the copycat,  insisted on the other drum stick, since he said it made him feel like Nat King Cole, which was a different issue all together. If a third cousin wanted a drumstick, despite the fact there were no more Coles to be had, my Uncle would try to pawn a piece of the wing off on us as a third drumstick, which none of us ever fell for, much to his disdain.

So year after year we sat there with our drumsticks…and drummettes, and plotted a kid coupe designed to take over the main dining room and exile the adults to the living room.  We were never successful, but once we got older, and were actually allowed at the “Big” table, we found it was kind of boring, and fought for a seat back at the “Kid Table”, which happened to be in front of the TV, which was a definite plus.

But all in all, I guess I have to say, that these hometown Thanksgiving memories of mine, aren’t really so bad after all…even the nuns, big sleeves and all. And keeping in the spirit of the holiday I am thankful for that and know I’m fortunate to have them. I’m also thankful that I live in this cool little place where I’ve been able to share them with, not only family, but a close group of friends, most of whom I’ve grown up with since my teens and twenties and a couple since I was five. 

That’s pretty special, and something that can only be found in a small town Thanksgiving.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the picture of the desk! We had the same ones, and similar other experiences apparently, at CCS in the 70's. It's great to read stories like this, especially as a person who lives in a place very far from hometown PC, where Thanksgiving Day doesn't exist. Happy Thanksgiving to you!


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