Thanksgiving Day fare in Brooklyn was full of gluten and the best of what Hollywood has to offer. Yes, the day was an old movie paradise for a teen boy. There seemed to be a penchant for apes that got off terrorizing crowded metropolitan areas. And yet, I’m sure I wasn’t the only kid rooting for them to bust a bridge, climb a skyscraper.
It was Mighty Joe Young, King Kong (and other movie classics), playing black & white on WWOR Channel 9. On a cold day when tree branches that resembled long, bony fingers reached for the sky and a sheet of gray cloud cast everything in shades of brown. The decay of sycamore leaves the only semblance of color left.
All the while, I never understood how the divine choosers of television programming decided Thanksgiving was a perfect day for savage gorillas.
Overall, it seemed the choices seemed to fit.
Anyway – I overdid the container eggnog-like dairy product (as usual), felt the edgy excitement about how the family-run stores in the neighborhood would be decorating for the beginning of Christmas shopping season (Black Friday), and listened to my mother who already overdid the vodka, try to wedge processed turkey breast (with gravy-like substance included) into a gloss-white Tappan oven.
Tiny kitchen, tiny stove, tiny poultry-like something. Big dreams, big hearts, big excitement.
All I heard was that tin-like cooker hit the blue-speckled sides of the oven multiple times before it awkwardly met its fate, settled in a hot tomb.
The more noise I heard, the more vodka I know mom had consumed. It was a holiday culinary symphony. And ironically, I miss and recall the holiday with fond memories. It was both of us against the world, even if it was for a time. A time and space when she thought only of me.
The best fake turkey I ever consumed was on those days.
Walking around early Thanksgiving morning back then is something I’ll never forget. Unusually solemn for city daybreak.
Quiet suffocated the apartment complex. The stillness was a priority. Not even the bustling subway trains ran on a normal schedule. Their odd disappearance generated vacuum-deafness louder than any roaring speed of steel meeting steel on elevated tracks.
Everything about Thanksgiving Day was magically different. The calm was so out of place, especially for a city. I’d get on the empty F train and travel its entire route on holidays.
I rode the subway out of curiosity. Behind speeding glass, the wonder of what was going on in the compact kitchens of other 3-room walk-ups captivated me. Most of it was in my imagination, but a comfort, nonetheless. My brain created all kinds of stories about Thanksgiving Day when even urban settings seemed quaint and provincial. The common threads among all these fellow dwellers were love and gratitude.
The quiet gave me a chance to breathe, gather thoughts, and stress out less over how the hell was I to eventually escape from the brick, cement, and tar crap hole.
Listen, we are all trapped in crap holes at times. Thanksgiving gives us a chance to break free. The holiday allows for warm thoughts and blessings bigger than ourselves to enter the crowded real estate in our heads.
We have a chance to appreciate those we love, whether they’re still with us or long gone. Sometimes, we give permission for old ghosts to sneak back in, and there’s a sad excitement to that too.
On Thanksgiving, we’ll strive for peace and gratefulness…
Like the feeling when a clanky, quiet holiday re-emerges from the deep of your mind. Or whatever your choppy memory of what Thanksgiving is. Or was.
When the sun is low, narrow, and yellow-sharp against a blue pitch, we think about all we have lost.
We try to let it go. But we never really let it go.
We just put it aside. And sometimes we don’t.
We allow in shadows of those we love and some we may not love so much.
We give them a free pass.
To follow alongside.
Invite them to feast with us.
And find comfort in what they were.
Good or bad.
Because at Thanksgiving, the peace and the quiet in our souls overrules everything.