Sunday, November 25, 2012

Rambling on About Over the River and Down the Garden State Parkway

Due to blended and extended families, joyous welcomes and painfully sad goodbyes,  Thanksgiving day for us has radically changed and has evolved into Thanksgiving weekend.   In fact it would be safe to say that for each one of the Thanksgiving day Thursdays, during the past dozen years, we have not eaten at the same table nor have we broken bread with the same people.

One thing that seems to be constant though is the round robin discussion, via telephone (actually that has evolved now into text messaging) that takes place a few weeks before that fourth Thursday in November.   The question:  "So what are you guys doing for Thanksgiving?"

I have many nostalgic memories of "Over the River and Through the Woods..." but they are long ago sense memories which come flashing back to me in the form of snippet slide show images.

When I was a young kid, our "Over the River" was the Garden State Parkway. The day, that very particular fourth Thursday, was spent with both Mom and Dad's family.  It would be an early dinner with one and a later dinner with the other.  My mother and father would never have been able to bargain with either side for the compromise to have Thanksgiving on Friday, Saturday or Sunday instead of that very special Thursday.   Perhaps that was because celebrating Thanksgiving day, that very particular fourth Thursday in November day, was the epitome of being an American to my Italian immigrant grandparents.

My snippet sense memories of those times are of the Italian version of an American holiday.  Course after course of antipasto, raviolis or lasagna, turkey with all of the trimmings, fruit and nuts, and dessert were served on long tables for the adults and overflow tables for the kids by grandmothers who never seemed to sit down to eat with us.

After I married and had children of my own, my grandparents were no longer with us. "Over the River" then was Route 1 to my parent's house and my husband's parent's house.    That particular day, that very special fourth Thursday in November was spent with both sets of my children's grandparents.  It would be an early dinner with one and a later dinner with the other.

My snippet sense memories of those times were the carried on traditional Italian version of lasagna and turkey, hustle and bustle, loud, everyone talking at once, chatter at my parent's and then, the much appreicated relief of quiet and delicious food, served at a small kitchen table at my husband's parents.

With the passing of my then husband's parents and of my father, the evolution of that particular Thursday, that fourth Thursday in November continued.   For me, particularly, the passing of my father changed the way I felt about Thanksgiving.

My snippet sense memory of that time is the painful image of watching my father unable to eat one bite of the full Thanksgiving dinner that my aunts brought down to us.  He died ten days later on December 2, 1990.

In the years after my father's death, that Thursday, that particular Thursday, that fourth Thursday in November, was spent with my mother one way or the other. "Over the River" changed over the years from an hour down route 539, to around the corner from us, and eventually and finally to our house.

The sense memories from the earlier years after my father's passing are still filled, though, with mom cooking, the hustle and bustle of my brother's and sisters and our kids all gathered together, lasagna and turkey and pumpkin pie.

About a dozen years ago the changes came fast and furious.  In the span of a few years, four divorces in the family,  our children becoming adults with kids of their own, my brother's mental illness and drug addiction becoming more serious and dangerous split the family into far too many shattered pieces.

That's when that Thanksgiving day, that very special particular fourth Thursday in November  suddenly became someday during the weekend of that fourth week in November and the question became, "So what are you guys doing for Thanksgiving?"

I still have flashing images of Thanksgiving day from the past 12 years, but they are images of dinners eaten without my children.  "We have to see what Dad is doing, we'll let you know" became the standard answer to "So what are you guys doing for Thanksgiving?"  For most of those 12 years I probably couldn't tell you where or with whom Ross and I spent that Thanksgiving day, that special particular Thursday, that fourth Thursday in November.   Thanksgiving days, though,  were still always spent with my mother...until on November 24, 2009, two days before Thanksgiving day, that particular fourth Thursday in November, when my mother took her last breath.

I have a clear memory of a day, a few weeks earlier, when I promised her that "Of course we were going to make Thanksgiving dinner."   And "Yes, she would be able to celebrate that day, that special Thursday, that particular fourth Thursday in November with us".

Last year, was my son's last Thanksgiving.

I have a vivid memory of that day.  I talked to him on the phone.  He told me that he had a few bites of turkey.  And yes, even though I knew better, I remember feeling a sense of hope that maybe he was getting his appetite back and that if he could only manage to eat a little more each day,  he would get stronger and be able to continue his treatment, and he would be able to...

On December 5, 2011, eleven days after that Thanksgiving day, that particular Thursday, that fourth Thursday in November my son Joseph passed away.

For the record, this year, this fourth Thursday in November of twenty-twleve, after the usual round robin discussion of "So what are you guys doing for Thanksgiving?" we gratefully accepted my sister's invitation to join her and Al for dinner.

Dinner was set for 3:00.  "Over the River" was to be a 50 minute drive down the familiar route 539 to their house.

I spent all morning thinking about Joe, and my mother.  I wondered who I should be thanking for this day, this day without them.   I struggled with the anticipation of "putting on a happy face", making small talk, and pretending that this day was a happy day.  After all isn't that the greeting? "Happy Thanksgiving".

At 2:00, the time we should have been in the car, already on the way, I was still in my robe and pj's curled up in a ball, crying on the sofa.   Ross asked me if I need more time and I nodded yes.

I did manage to get myself together, and even though we arrived an hour late, Elaine and Al, were gracious.  I'm afraid I wasn't very good company, but I want to record this day, here, so that I will remember who we spent Thanksgiving with, this particular Thursday, this fourth Thursday in November of twenty-twelve.

There was turkey, and home made corn bread stuffing, roasted potatoes and string beans with almonds, home baked bread, and oops the "forgot to put out" home made cranberry sauce (I bet it was delicious).
My brother Ray, and Patty and Patty's ninety-something year old mother came for the desserts of home made apple and pumpkin pie.

So, during the past dozen years, as has become the new norm, Ross and I would have to wait until the Saturday after that particular Thursday, that fourth Thursday in November to have our Thanksgiving.  The one that actually means the most to me because it is the one when the kids come to our house for the hustle and bustle of the new traditional Italian gravy and meatballs, baked ziti and eggplant parmesan Saturday Thanksgiving day.

I have much more to say about this year's Saturday Thanksgiving in tomorrow's post.

As I think about that day, I am sadly astonished about the many changes surrounding our Saturday Thanksgiving that have occurred so recently.

Saturday Thanksgiving 2010

So maybe that's where the giving thanks part comes in, appreciation for what is.

I have created a page for Anna's Diary.  It can be found under the Tab titled Anna's Diary.
I have posted all of the entries to date there, starting with January 1, 1929.

Friday, November 22, 1929
Junior invited to a party.  Little Norma M's. Met Dr. Restina's wife and little girl Yovonne. Brought a little sweater to Norma.
Sat. November 23, 1929
Home all day.  Cleaned house thoroughly.  Jean home at one.  Listened to Harvard-Yale football game over radio.  Yale lost.  Ted came about four and expects Isabell Long.
Sun.  November 24, 1929
Home all day.  Raining.  Jean at 360 for dinner.  Isasbelle and Ted her overnight.  Left at noon.  Junior and I went to Elsie's.  Stayed until 9:30.  Dick reading.  Children playing.
Mon.  November 25, 1929
Home.  Rose came for lunch.  Rosale here.  Did not go to school.  After dinner played three handed bridge then Minnie came over and played four.  Left about 5:30.


  1. I liked this post a lot, Lynda. Lots to think about, lots of emotions to notice and let be. Thanks ---