The older I get, the less I like holidays--with one exception: Thanksgiving. In part, it may be because Thanksgiving uniquely seems to have escaped the retail frenzy attached to other holidays. Thanksgiving is all about family and food.
That can make for some memorably bad holiday dinners, but not for me. My Thanksgivings as a child were so marvelous that although many of the major players are long gone, the glow and, yes, the excitement, never fails to kick in, beginning with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Macy's parade.
I grew up in a suburb of a middle-sized mid-west town. As a youngster, I was part of a cross-pollinated clan that consisted of endless numbers of distant cousins. Although most everyone back then lived in a house, at least half of our Thanksgivings were held at Brynwood Country Club, co-founded by my grandfather because he was a successful lawyer and a golf fanatic--and because Midwest clubs back then didn't admit Jews.
Since Grandpa Morris, as we called him, was the only member, we all came as his invited guests. Brynwood was opulent by our young standards, from the grand entrance staircase to the wood-paneled dining room. On Thanksgiving, we had the run of the place and boy, did we run!
Even the dining room, which was usually reserved for weddings and formal events, belonged exclusively to us that day. At its largest, our group consisted of about thirty-five people. That's not a huge number in some families (close to 200 people showed up for my husband's funeral in Ithaca and they were nearly all related to his family in one way or another) but for me, the middle child of three, it was a crowd.
On the years we didn't eat at Brynwood, I still recall a tightknit family affair. We always had plenty to eat and even better, there was no kid's table. If you could hold a fork, you ate with the adults. If you couldn't behave, you didn't eat. We always behaved relatively well.
Thanksgiving' has meaning for me: I understand the part about giving thanks for good fortune, but I also like the idea that people come together, as they presumably did on that first meal at Plymouth Rock--different people from different cultures working together, sharing food, breaking bread. In my mind and in my heart, that's what Thanksgiving is all about.
I've always poo-pooed the idea of becoming too attached to one's memories, but lately, I’ve seen the value in pulling up the good ones. These days, I "borrow" families at Thanksgiving (I've gone to my friend's family gathering for the past eight years). In the silhouettes of the youngest girls who still favor party dresses over blue jeans or leggings, I see my sister and me, running down long-ago corridors on our way to a magical feast.