Tuesday, November 21, 2006

When We Spent Holidays Together

Here we go, just a few days before Thanksgiving. We're on the heels of another holiday season. While it's great to look ahead and know that memories will be made and joy will be shared, it's almost preferable to look back instead of ahead. That may seem odd, as it's almost always better to look forward than backward. But when you get older and family and friends go away, you really do have something to be thankful for. You should be thankful for the memories of times past as well as those that are to be created in the present or future.

This Thanksgiving Day, we'll be spending the day at my sister-in-laws / brother-in-laws house, and my wife and I are always happy to spend time with them. I'm glad for it for another reason too, as my wife hasn't had the opportunity to spend too many holidays with her family. We've spent more of them with my family than with hers. I feel bad about that, because looking at it, I believe she's been denied the chance to look back when we get older on those times that could have been and probably should have been. She's never, ever complained, but a spouse deserves as much time with their family as with yours.

Why do I think about these things? Because I can sit here and think back to a time that was and remember a dinner table lined with family members who won't share those holiday dinners anymore. As I already mentioned, some have passed away. My father and my grandparents aren't around anymore to spend those holidays with. Some others won't be there because of changes in family situation where they've married and have their own to care for. And like all families, sometimes it's impossible to get everyone together because of someone who can't stand to be in the same room with another or someone said something stupid to another a decade ago and it's still remembered to this day. With many folks having the day off after Thanksgiving, maybe we should have a Forgiveness Day too, a chance for all who harbor ill feelings because of things petty or significant to come together and correct the wrongs.

What will your holidays be like this year? If you say they could be better because of something that can be corrected but hasn't, maybe this is the year to see those things resolved. If you've placed selfish things ahead of family and/or friends, put them aside temporarily. There will be other days and times for those things. Someday the folks you can make the best of things with aren't going to be there anymore. And someday, you may look back at what could have been instead of what should have been. It's always better to make the changes now while they mean something, rather than regret what you can no longer do.

...My grandfather roasting nuts in an old 1920s era gas oven in the basement of their home on 17th street. No pilot light, you turned on the gas and lit it quickly or you'd get a nice "whoosh!" from the built up gas igniting.
...Conversation. Everyone stayed in the living room, dining room, or kitchen. No one ran to the sanctuary of their own room once the dinner plates were cleared, and if someone watched TV, we all did, and still talked all day.
...Everyone showing up before noon and not leaving until evening. No rushing to dinner and out the door.
...Two things were always available to drink at my grandparents: a bottle of wine for the adults and a few quarts of Frank's Ginger Ale for the kids (or adults who didn't drink much wine). We didn't guzzle the soda like kids do today. You drank it from maybe 6-ounce glasses or jelly jar glasses (remember the Flintstones glasses that Welch's sold their grape jelly in?) and made it last.
...Wresting in the living room of my grandparents house with my brother and cousin while my grandmother would yell that we were going to hurt each other. We almost never did (I remember one of us hit our heads on the marble coffee table once), but we did get to imitate our favorite wrestlers from Saturday morning TV. Never broke any furniture either.
...A full-course dinner as found in most Italian homes. Macaroni (none dare call it pasta), meatballs, sausage, and bragiole, turkey and stuffing, and then the salad (salad always came last, and always with vinegar and oil, no bottled dressing). Bread fresh from Lanci's Bakery on Jackson St. was always on the table.
...Along with the walnuts, chestnuts, and brazils, cheese from Cilione's (also on Jackson St) was on the table before and after dinner, along with bottles of Jacquin's Anisette and Blackberry Brandy. My grandmother would never let a holiday go by without stopping by the State Store to get bottles of both.
...My grandparent's neighbor Pete always knocking on holidays to say hello and to give my brother, sister, and I a quarter. As we got older, it became half dollars and we looked forward to getting those Kennedy heads, always checking to see if we got a silver one.

I know, the memories all seem like simple stuff, and they are. But they're my memories, those of time spent with people I loved being with and those gone that are really missed. Although they seem simple, I think I'd rather remember things like that than remembering that we spent the day around the PlayStation. And I'd rather see everyone in one room than going from house-to-house. Those times were times well spent.


jnic117 said...

Wow, these memories could easily have been expressed exactly from my own mind. I too remember sharing the holidays with a house full of people and bread from Lanci's and olives, lunchmeat and cheeses from Cillione's. So sad to see those staples of my youth gone now. However, my wife and I have started our own holiday tradition with her family gathering at our house every Christmas Eve. I hope my two sons will look back on these times as fondly as I remember them from my youth.

Brian said...
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