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Holiday Memories of YesterYear: Thanksgiving

Welcome to the second post in a series of rambling stream-of-conscious articles related to holiday memories of the past.  With Thanksgiving just days away, I sat down to reflect upon Thanksgivings of yesteryear.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.  It's cathartic in a way to go back and put this down in writing and hopefully it jogs your memory of some fun or heartfelt moments of your own.

As I mentioned in the Garfield Thanksgiving post, when I was very little we would drive the 4 or 5 hours every year from when I was too young to remember to my Aunt's farm house outside of Syracuse, New York.  The house was large and she had 7 children.  Add in additional family and it was easily 50 people on Thanksgiving.  I remember going to bed early (as young children do) while the adults were still awake.  The house was old and creepy and my parents turned on the radio to help me sleep.  I can still remember laying awake at night in a room with my Brother and probably 3 or 4 of my cousins listening to music and the sounds of cars on the highway outside.

One year up in Syracuse I remember my parents taking a ride to a dog breeder they had found in the paper or something.  My parents had always wanted a Basset Hound and they bought a pure bred from a breeder while we were up there.  We named him Barney.  The purple dinosaur didn't exist yet... he was named after Don Knott's character Barney Fife on the Andy Griffith show.  My Dad and I would sit and watch The Andy Griffith show on TBS (and later Nick-At-Nite I believe) and the dog just looked liked a Barney when we got him.  I grew up with Barney and we actually had him for 18 years before his time came to leave us.  He was a great dog.

Another thing I remember about Thanksgiving up in Syracuse was the beautiful stained glass windows she had in her staircase.  The stairwell is pretty impressive.  It's almost like this big grand staircase in this otherwise unassuming farm house but the stained glass always kept me occupied as a kid.

That reminds me of another thing I remember about Thanksgiving... trying to stay away from the adults.  My cousins had a hodgepodge of toys and I remember playing with their original Kenner Star Wars figures in the upstairs hallway just to get away from the crowd.  Boy do I wish I still had some of those Kenner figures.  In good enough condition they might be worth something.

Even after we stopped going to Syracuse for Thanksgiving, I enjoyed staying out of the way.  My other Uncle would often come down to his parents (my Grandparent's lived next door to my house) and we'd toss a football or baseball around outside.  During my teen years we'd go for 5 mile runs the morning of Thanksgiving early enough to get back and watch part of the parade and Laurel and Hardy's Toy Soldiers movie.

We eventually stopped going to Syracuse for a nnumber of reasons.  My brother and I were older and involved in sports after school and couldn't spare the time.  My Mom had gone back to work and also couldn't spare the time and my Grandparents were getting older and it was just easier on them to not stay in a house with 50 other people.  As I mentioned, my Grandparent's lived in the house next door to us, and whenever we'd go on family trips they'd follow us in their car.  I remember one of (if not THE last) trips my parent's car broke down on the way home.  I don't remember what it was but I remember thinking we were going to die.  The car limped into a gas station or parking lot of some sort and I got so upset I threw up all over the place.  I was a panicky kid and went through a paranoid stage around the 1st Grade that I'd be left alone or forgotten.  It was so bad my parents sent me to karate classes to toughen up and I remember crying my eyes out when my Mom left for the hour class to get some errands done.  The sensai grabbed me by the wrists, looked me in the eye, and told me that if I stopped crying, he'd give me a Japanese/American flag patch and that he'd personally drive me home if she didn't come back.  I still get panicky but the anxiety as a kid was gone after that.  I often think back on that Karate class for instilling some very important life lessons, such as respect for elders and people of higher rank, eye contact, and self respect.  I took lessons for 3 years or so and gave up because I'm also quite lazy... but I had gotten more involved in hockey at that point and didn't have the time.

Speaking of hockey, I remember we always had hockey practice in high school on the morning before and after Thanksgiving... even though school was out.  The morning before was a good long work out at the highschool in the morning.  We'd hit the weight room and the track... or if it was really cold we'd run laps inside the school hallways which was fun.  The day after Thanksgiving we often had a game in the evening so we'd show up to school early, often in pajama pants (hey!  in the 90's that was cool) and watch video tapes and go over the evening game.  I often felt the day-after Thanksgiving game was a big deal even though it wasn't.  Parents would discuss their black friday deals.  Everyone else on the team would discuss the parties they went to (I was rarely invited to anything) or what girls they hooked up with over break (yeah, that didn't happen either.)  I felt like we were playing in a big game because we also had our largest attendance that day.  Old players were home from college and kids from our school would come watch just for something to do.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays but not really for the food like some people.  I'm not a giant turkey fan and often Thanksgiving is one of the few times a year I'll eat it.  I much prefer the years my Mom also made a glazed ham.  I remember Granny would put the cranberry sauce right out of the can and I enjoyed it best when it retained the shape of said can.  I wouldn't ever touch it as a kid but I also used to love when she would put the fried onions on top of the green bean casserole.  My Grandfather would always gross us out by gnawing on the turkey neck.  He LOVED the turkey neck.  He'd also always save the wishbone for me and my Brother.  Honestly I think my favorite food for Thanksgiving are the Kings Hawaiian dinner rolls my family would buy.

Since Thanksgiving wasn't a favorite of mine because of food, I've been trying to put my finger on it.  I honestly think it's just the family togetherness.  Which is odd because I hate family get togethers with my large extended family.  After we stopped going to Syracuse, though, the core group of people in my family that I really cared about would get together and celebrate the holiday and spend time.  It was the time off of school and work, the time spent together watching tv or talking around the table, the time spent with my friends on the hockey team, and the time spent being thankful for what God had granted myself and my family.

Not to end this on a sappy note, but, that's really what this holiday is about:  Spending time with loved ones and being thankful and grateful for what we have.