Happy Last Thursday In November!

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

Sorta loses something when it’s put in those terms, don’t it? On Thanksgiving Day, 2002, I was just preparing to enter The Queens Theatre in Upminster, Essex, for what would turn out to be a lovely gig, that unfortunately, I’d never do again. Before I got inside the theatre, my mobile went off, and it turned out to be my family calling from Redlands, California at about noon their time, to send happy holiday wishes and a few “wish-you-were-here’s.” My dad, though he professed to be a Christian, shunning his multi-generational Jewish heritage, never failed to dispel that inherent Jewish mother in him, especially when turning on the guilt machine. “There’s something missing here,” he began, and I was quick to reply with, “Yes, and it’s by choice that I’m here in England, and performing in this lovely historic building.” This would mark the first of now 12 consecutive US Thanksgivings I’ve missed, and counting.

The people I feel sorriest for at this time of year are the US airport employees on the days leading up to today. They must listen to hundreds of sob stories of stand-by passengers, sometimes whole families of them, and their need to fly to Pittsburgh from LA on a flight that was sold out a month ago. “But my aunt is in poor health, this may be my last chance to see her,” or something equivalent is thrust upon the poor ticket agent who has to wear a painted smile all day as he/she constantly has to be the one delivering the bad news, and in many cases is directly accused of being cold and uncaring. Meanwhile, the chaos continues to mount as many children are caught in the stand-by miasma. What I was most thankful for at that time of year was that my parents’ house was only 70 miles away from my house in LA, so I didn’t ever have to fly anywhere.

OK, so I missed the craziness at airports, but there was plenty of other problems. I lived in LA for 21 years, and during that time, I missed only one Redlands Thanksgiving (More on that later). By the mid-1990’s, I had to come in early on Wednesday, for my mom, by now past 70, was working herself silly preparing for the onslaught. Our family always seemed to be in the position of hosting gatherings of 10 or more. My poor mom would come home from work at about 5:00, start cooking, and between then and the serving of the meal about 24 hours later, she might get as much as three hours sleep. My dad was totally useless, mostly volunteering to go to the store (a 15-minute drive) if my mom gave the slightest inkling that she was short of or out of maybe fennel, then returning over an hour later, only to discover that oops, we’re out of marjoram, too, prompting another lengthy absence. After many years of seeing this, my brother and I and our respective spouses finally agreed to come early to relieve some of the burden. Even so, my mom’s sleep hours only increased by one or two. Force of habit, I guess.

Yeah, I know, think about the poor Pilgrims who toiled and slaved for a year on their first feast, and only 58 of the original 102 that arrived on the Mayflower in December, 1620, actually lived to partake of that feast. Which brings me to the other extreme, which was that one year I didn’t go to Redlands. In the late 90’s I went for a family Thanksgiving with my then-wife’s family. Her sister’s husband’s sister (a mouthful, I know) was married, and still is I’m sure, to a very successful film director/producer, and one year we went to their Pacific Palisades estate for the dinner. In a house where the kids’ bedrooms were bigger than my entire apartment, I always felt an immediate air of inferiority going over there. The meal was going to be a snap, though, as it was entirely catered, and none of us had to lift a finger. We could just drink and talk while the caterers ran back and forth for 2 or 3 hours. Fortunately for them, the turkey had already been done, so it was just a matter of keeping it warm and moist while they prepared all the trimmings. My dad would have loved that scenario. Personally, I hated the fact that these caterers were having to sacrifice their own family time for us, then have to stick around to do all the clean-up. I can’t remember, but I certainly HOPE they were at least allowed to feed themselves. I felt guilty enough to offer to help wash the dishes, but they refused.

The next year, I was relieved to be back again at Redlands, to at least savor the benefit of munching on something I had a hand in preparing.

Having now gone 12 years without experiencing that All-American ritual, I find I miss it less and less as years go by. On Thanksgiving Day, 2004, less than a week after I’d gotten married, one of my ex-pat friends here tried to orchestrate a feast, but since it was a work day for most, and a school night for my new stepson, it was difficult to get into whatever spirit was supposed to ensue. The food was great, but if you’re having to explain to over half the guests the significance of the celebration, if there is indeed any, then it just becomes a tedious Thursday.

Ultimately, the significance has almost been dwarfed by the underlying reason for the 4-day holiday, though few will admit, which is to usher in the Christmas shopping season. The day following Thanksgiving, recently given the name Black Friday, is happily something I’ve never dealt with, and I perhaps naively presume that anyone of sound mind would avoid it as well. As the department stores open early on that evil day to throngs of bug-eyed consumers fighting to get the latest “must-haves” before they’re sold out, most regard for fellow man goes out the window. People are rude to each other, fights break out, people max out their credit cards, the usual pandemonium.

Today, I plan to go to the cinema, and tonight, I’ll eat leftover pasta sauce. Tomorrow, I’ll go to Marie Curie Hospice to begin my orientation for volunteer work that I’ll be doing one day a week, aiding and assisting cancer patients. I’m happy and calm in my setting, and that’s all I really want. But Happy (and hopefully stress-free) Thanksgiving to all of you across the pond!

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.