Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving Now and Then

So Thanksgiving dinner is over. It took a beautiful ride through Topanga Canyon to get to the beach and the restaurant that has become our regular spot. It is part of a chain that is connected to Hawaii, so the dishes have interesting touches like taro creamed spinach. The yams were flavored with pineapple and they offered something called poke which is a Hawaiian dish of marinated raw fish.

Since I’m a vegetarian, I didn’t eat the poke, but my family all raved about it. Of course there was the traditional turkey and I think roast beef. There was a wonderful selection of vegetables and side dishes that worked for me. They even had a vegetarian version of the stuffing.

We got there around 3 and stayed until almost 6. Our table was next to the window and I had a perfect view of the sunset, watching until the water had turned a dark blue and the sky had lost it last bits of pink.

It was very different from the Thanksgivings I had growing up in Chicago. While I was sitting there looking across the water to Catalina, I thought back to the first Thanksgiving my family had in a new apartment. We had moved just a block away because they were tearing down our old building in an urban renewal plan.

I loved the new apartment because it had a front balcony, a back porch and a little room off my bedroom that had a marble sink, which I have since learned is called a shaving closet.

Somehow my mother had managed to unpack all the boxes of books that lined the long hall and put them away and get the whole place settled for that first dinner. It snowed on that Thanksgiving, which seemed magical. The light reflected off the white and made the inside almost sparkle.

In those years I was in a children’s choir at the Unitarian Church. Every Thanksgiving there was a service at Rockefeller Chapel which is part of the University of Chicago. All the churches and synagogues in the neighborhood took part in it and sent their choirs. The day before there was always a big rehearsal and I remember walking home afterwards as it was getting dark.

My mother was too busy cooking to come to the service, but I loved being part of it. We wore bright red robes and marched in with the other choirs. There was such a good feeling that all these different beliefs got together to give thanks.

Then it was home with a stop. Everything was closed except for a small deli-grocery storey called Friedman’s. I remember seeing some U. of C. students ahead of me in line. They were buying egg nog and stuff to make spaghetti for their Thanksgiving dinner and seemed to be excited about having the non traditional meal.

At home, the apartment was warm and fragrant with cooking smells. My mother made everything from scratch. Thinking back I am amazed how much she got together for dinner. And since she worked, that meant she had to do it all the night before and the day of.

We always had company, though I don’t remember who came that year. At that time nobody thought about shopping. It was only years later when I worked at Marshall Fields during Christmas in the toy department did that Friday become a big deal to me. Nobody got that day off and it was the kickoff of the Christmas season.

That first Thanksgiving in our new apartment was also the last one when my whole family was together. By the next year my brother had gone off to college in Boston and it was too pricey for him to come home for the holiday.

Next week I’ll be going back to that apartment. I still love the front porch and the back porch and the shaving closet. I love that I can sit in the living room and it is as if the moments from the past have left some kind of imprint and I can see them replaying in my minds eye.


Linda O. Johnston said...

Such wonderful Thanksgiving memories, Betty!

Betty Hechtman said...

Linda, and now I have some new ones to add - being at Best Buy at midnight and the Topganga mall at 2 a.m..