It is the afternoon before Thanksgiving and normally by this time, I would be on my third venti mocha latte with soy, no whip, hurriedly running through my mind at least four or five tasks that needed to get done before it turned dark. Which Christmas theme to use; I have seven sets of ornaments for seven different themes and that includes not just the Christmas tree, but the entire first floor of my home (obsession is mine). Picking up the table cloths and napkins from the cleaners; figuring out whether I had sufficient napkin ring holders for all who were coming; and where was everyone going to sleep — do I have sufficient blow up beds? Not this time.
As much as I tried to fight the brave fight, for the past seven days, I have been huddled under blankets, slathered in Vicks (which is no where near as powerful as it was when I as a kid), coughing, sneezing, feverish, teary-eyed and oblivious to everything around me except my “cold.” The fever is gone and I have finally been able to eat something solid; a sandwich — a much better choice than another bowl of chicken soup, tea and crackers. In fact, I just may “send out” for that venti mocha latte.
For me, seven days at home in bed is a record. I avoided phone calls, emails, blogging and all contact with the outside world. I actually turned off the news! So what did I do — no emails to Sen. Lieberman to do the right thing. No righteous indignation about the 45,000 who die every year without health insurance. No finding of yet another report that tells the grim story of life without insurance.
In stead I found myself recalling my mother’s voice, high pitched, giving out orders as she and my aunts prepared a feast. Our family ritual was the night before, my sisters and I would gather in the kitchen and help chop up onions, peppers, potatoes and others ingredients for the potato salad. There was the grating of the sweet potatoes for sweet potato pies and pudding, and then the stirring. The consistency of the pies and the consistency of the puddings were different. Whoever was stirring for either pie or pudding had to be sure to get it right.
In between the chopping, neighbors and relatives would stop by to chat, drop off some treats to eat and share stories of their days. The next morning, the “girls” would get up early, bundle up and head to the train station to take the ride downtown to 34th Street and watch the Macy’s Day Parade. After the parade, we would walk from 34th Street to 42nd Street and Times Square to the Horn & Hardart for hot chocolate and a light snack to “tie us over” before heading home for the feast.
We loved going to the Horn & Hardart with its neatly stacked slots of chrome and glass, each slot holding a slice of pie or sandwich or something good to eat. Eating was always done at home with the entire family. So going to Horn & Hardarts, putting our coins in and selecting our own food was a special treat. My favorite spot was to go upstairs and find a table close to the windows and look out at people passing by as we ate.
Once back at home, my sisters and I would set the table then hurriedly get dressed in our best and our humble home turned into a majestic place, filled with love and laughter. There was always singing and later skits performed by the younger crew, followed by family folklore and tall tales by the older crew. The Thanksgiving Day meal was more than nourishment for the body, it was nourishment for the soul. It brought our family, neighbors and close friends who were more like family than not, together to give thanks for what we had, and share our traditions and love.
Tomorrow, we will join one of my sisters, a couple of our children and theirs, and some friends for dinner — if I am up to it. My house has a big “Q” on it for “Quarantine.” My parents and their siblings are all deceased. My sisters and I are now the old crew. Our children and grandchildren, instead of living in the same neighborhood, live spread out across the country.
There’s one thing we do every year since 2001 and that is meet up the weekend before Christmas in New York. This year, the task has gone to the next generation (thank you) to pull it all together. One by one, however, I am getting calls about my Christmas plans and it seems that my house will be filling up. I guess I’ll go get that venti mocha latte and make up a list of things to do. Put the table linens in the cleaners; purchase an extra set of red and white wine glasses; and check on the air beds for a start.