Golden Memories. Life’s True Treasures.

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.

About GU Writer

Words matter.


  1. H.G.

    According to a 2009 BBC poll, just 18% of Afghans support increasing the U.S. military’s presence ,while 44% favor reducing it.

  2. Richard

    Well, if we hear words like “staying until a stable national government is in place in Kabul” or “staying until the Afghans themselves are able to guarantee their own security” or “staying until we have defeated the terrorists” — then there is no real exit strategy and no real exit……

  3. andy

    Christ –

    These naive peacers all sound like John Lennon or Ghandi or –

    Christ –

    • Now that is the first time I have heard Gandhi referred to as having been naive.

      Mahatma Gandhi successfully drove out those occupying his country through a peaceful revolution; a human revolution that lead him to make the choice to lead his nation in the act of gathering salt from the sea rather than buy it from the British at exorbitant prices. Gandhi was far from naive.

      As for references to Christ; religion is personal and I’ll respectfully leave that be.

      John Lennon – I liked the Beatles. Still do. Great musicians. Their songs, like many artists of their day, talked about compassion, tolerance, a peaceful society. These are qualities that America is known for and people still die to come here to try and get just a slight taste of our freedoms, our values.

  4. Richard

    there is nothing “careful” about throwing away the lives of fathers @ mothers @ daughters @ sons

    especially when they are not your own

    take 1000 years to make that choice – but –

    it will ALLways be careLESS

    • The sad part here is that no one is listening; not even to themselves. Last week, President Obama stated, “At the end of this process, I’m going to be able to present to the American people in very clear terms what exactly is at stake, what we intend to do, how we’re going to succeed, how much it’s going to cost, how long it’s going to take.” Most important, an exit strategy will be in the mix.

      This war has gone on for eight years with none of the above in place pre_Obama. The announcement has not been made and folks are angry over rumors and other people’s suppositions. No formal announcement has been made.

      Perhaps folks can do something novel, wait for the announcement of what the President’s plans are before we trash them.

  5. J.D.

    There ARE good decisions with any war. That is — to end it.

    • I am hopeful that everyone wants this war to end; and before my grandson steps on Afghani soil. The question is how to do so with the least destruction for all concerned. In a perfect world, “just leave” or “just end it” seems just fine. You cannot turn to the thousands of troops and tell them to hop a flight home. Any action should be handled in the manner in which President Obama is handling it, carefully. that is my point.

  6. Martha H.

    “Eight years ago, the U.S. and NATO — under the banner of women’s rights, human rights, and democracy — occupied my country and pushed us from the frying pan into the fire. Eight years is enough to know better about the corrupt, mafia system of President Hamid Karzai. My people are crushed between two powerful enemies. From the sky, occupation forces bomb and kill civilians … and on the ground, the Taliban and warlords continue their crimes. It is better that they leave my country; my people are that fed up. Occupation will never bring liberation, and it is impossible to bring democracy by war.” 

    ~ Former Afghan member of parliament Malalai Joya

    • I don’t recall President Obama saying that he is going to “stay the course” or use phrases like, “…even if it takes 100 years.” He has never talked about “occupation” either. I do hear him talking about an exit strategy and more.

      • Martha H.

        Are there fixed and absolute deadlines? Are they soon? Are they real?

        Otherwise, it all sounds like every other national leader who talks peace, but walks war…..

        We – must – do – better.

  7. CT Mom

    I am sorry. I cannot support the expansion of a war that leaves thousands of women and children dead and wounded, and that is almost certainly un-winnable no matter how large our forces (not that anyone can truly “win” something that involves so much death!) — and that has killed three men from my own town here in Connecticut. There are no excuses. None. None.

  8. Yes, the war is hard to “stomach;” especially for me. My youngest son spent a tour in Afghanistan, and has since returned home safely. My oldest grandson is in the prep stages of being deployed to Afghanistan. I find it perplexing that a young college man with a gift and incredible talent, who was studying to become an architect, midway through his junior year, decides to not wait for graduation and instead go full steam ahead with the military now – he’s national guard. Such is his choice, which I must honor and respect, despite the knot that has returned in my gut.

    I do not like war. It is barbarous, and no one wins in my opinion. Nevertheless, here we are in the middle of another war (Bush’s decision; not Obama’s). I am grateful and appreciative that it is Barack Obama who sits in the Oval Office and not his predecessor. When my son was in Afghanistan, it seemed we did not have sufficient troops on hand when he first arrived. I was relieved when more troops were sent to help those already there. I can readily relate to those family members of soldiers in the battlefield right now, hoping that their family member will be properly supported. We elected a man who would not respond in a knee-jerk reaction but instead undertake deliberate, substantive forethought followed by the right actions. There are no good decisions with any war, let alone Afghanistan.

    Everyone keeps comparing President Obama to President Johnson. There’s a major difference – and not just in ethnicity. President Johnson became president by default through a horrific tragedy. President Obama chose directly to take on the mess that our country is entangled in. It is his choice to lead us out of the quagmire of Afghanistan, a teetering economy and more by standing up against industrial monopolies who have seemingly declared war on us in all aspects of our lives. That is worthy of deep respect and trust. Thus far, President Obama is taking time to review, reassess and redefine our mission, our vision and establish a viable exit strategy with regard to Afghanistan. Moreover, he is doing so with everyone at the table and not in a vacuum as his predecessor often did.

    We should not blame President Obama for the mess we are in; it is not his fault. There are no good decisions with Afghanistan. We know that and so does the president. His mission is one of consistent and persistent mop up of the myriad problems left behind by the preceding administration. Let’s keep our perspective and instead provide him with the support he needs to lead us and our troops through the best scenario. Just as I trust and respect the architect in my grandson, I must also trust and respect the solider that has chosen to be. So shall I trust and respect my President.

  9. James D

    Thank you for sharing your warm story.

    Unfortunately, my Thanksgiving had a pall over it. I have two teenage children whom I love dearly. We raised them to be kind and caring.

    We quote MLK to them: “We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.”

    So the growing expectation that the president whose election we — as a family — celebrated is about to send thousands more young Americans to kill and be killed in another distant war leaves us sickened. And worried about an endless conflict that could very well catch my kids when they are old enough to have to register for the draft. I fear for their futures. And their lives.

    So it is hard to give thanks…

  10. Truthful words, some authentic words dude. You made my day.

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