The Experimental Memoir - Day 24 Thanksgiving, part 1
I believe I was seven years old when our family got its first television. It was Christmas and their was this big thing on a table next to the Christmas tree. It had a dark brownish green piece of glass in the front, some knobs on the upper right hand section of the front of it and was made of some sort of beige plastic. My siblings and I gathered around in wonder and amazement. I didn’t know what it was, but my older brothers did. They turned it on, spun the dial and eventually a snowy staticy image appeared. It was a drawing of a dog flying, out of the speaker, came the words, “Here I come to save the day…” I didn’t know what that meant, but my older brothers, whom I guess had seen televisions before at friends’ houses and probably had even seen the show, Underdog, knew that underdog was on the way.
My father didn’t have much use for television, and at best we would watch, “The FBI” or “The Wonderful World of Disney” as a family. More often, he would berate us for watching Gilligan’s Island, or Bewitched. There would be exceptions, such when The Wizard of Oz was on, or certain holiday specials. Although, it was many years before I learned that The Wizard of Oz wasn’t all in black and white.
We seemed to get a pass when Charlie Brown was on, and watching the Thanksgiving Day Parades was an acceptable activity.
We only got three channels back then, and ABC, NBC and CBS affiliate. We would gather around the television in the living room and watch as giant balloons were guided down the avenues of New York City. We would watch the bands. As a young kid, this spectacle was as remote as Oz, and also in black and white.
While we watched the parade, the turkey would be baking in the oven. This was in a day before self-basting turkeys and little plastic things that would pop up indicating that the turkey was done. To baste the turkey, my mother would cover it with strips of bacon. As the turkey cooked, the bacon cooked and the grease trickled down into the turkey meat, providing us with a moist, and nicely flavored turkey.
As the turkey cooked and our hunger grew, we would eat special food for the season, grapes, nuts, and celery stuffed with peanut butter and with cream cheese. Being a New England home, we grew up with all the rituals of Thanksgiving, stories of the pilgrims, five kernels of corn, and decorations made by kids in elementary school.
When I was older and went off to college, even though my parents and separated and my older siblings had headed out on their own, I always made it home for Thanksgiving. I went to college in Ohio and it was a long trip home. I would be tired, but the remnant of the family would celebrate Thanksgiving together. We too often forget that thanksgiving grew out of giving thanks more for making it through difficult times than for the abundance that followed.
After college, I moved to New York City, that black and white land of an Oz like Thanksgiving Day parade. Perhaps because the real parade could not recreate the magic of the small black and white image from my childhood, perhaps because I didn’t relish fighting the crowds, or more likely because I would head up to New England for Thanksgiving, I never made it to the parade.
One of my first roommates did. He worked in food service for CBS news and needed to make sure that all the crews covering the parade had sufficient food, coffee, and hot chocolate to make it through the long cold mornings broadcasting the parade. The first year I lived with him and a few other guys in an old spice factory in Brooklyn that had been partially converted into artists’ lofts, I stayed in the city and we had our own Thanksgiving dinner. I cooked the turkey similar to the way my mother had, with the exception that I didn’t know where to find the giblets. I had taken everything that had been put in the stomach cavity and stuffed the bird with a bread dressing. However, I didn’t know about the other place to look for the giblets, and they cooked in a plastic bag in the end of the turkey.
Later, when I moved to the Upper West Side, I would head over to the Museum of Natural History to watch the giant balloons being blown up. This had more of a magical feeling, in a Fellini-esque sort of way.
Still, I liked heading up to New England. My mother lives near a ski slope, so I would go up, spend the day skiing and then come home with a large appetite for Thanksgiving dinner.