Wednesday, November 24, 2021



Thanksgiving was always a big deal in my family. Because we were Jewish, it was the one big holiday that we shared with the whole country. Sure, there's Fourth of July, but people don't fly home for that. My mother always hosted. The only year she ever missed (until she got too old to manage a big party) was the year I was born (November 26, 1946).

I loved all those big family gatherings. I happen to have grown up in a very sane family, easy to be around. No turkeys hurtling through the air, no screaming fights, no boring drunks.

But I reserve a little corner of my heart for those special Thanksgivings away from my parents' home.


I was living in New York City in a tiny apartment on West 49th Street & Ninth Avenue -- in the area at that time known as Hell's Kitchen. I worked at a halfway house for former mental patients, Fountain House. The clients didn't live there but came during the day and hung out and worked jobs keeping the programs going. I was assistant to the social worker who ran the coffee shop. We didn't get along. I had this idea that I wanted to be a social worker, and I always got along great with the clients but almost never with the other social workers. Eventually I ended up in the Art Department where everyone, including the head, was an ex-patient except for me. I'd found my niche.

Anyhow THANKSGIVING. All my friends had gone out of town. I was alone on Thanksgiving for the first time of my life, and I felt lousy about it. I decided to walk to Times Square and see the Beatle's new movie, YELLOW SUBMARINE. At that time, Times Square was very sleazy with lots of cheap movies. I started down Ninth Avenue, and who should come along but an African-American Santa Claus on a bicycle built for two! He stopped and asked if I needed a ride anywhere. Of course, I COULD have walked the short distance to the theater, but who would refuse a ride on a bike from a black Santa on Thanksgiving Day? On ANY day? Not I!

When I arrived at the theater, I descended from my chariot, with the gracious assistance of my Santa. He bowed low and I curtsied my appreciation. The crowd that was watching burst into applause as Santa pedaled away. I joined the line.

Once inside the movie palace, which had seen far better days, I bought some popcorn and headed for the balcony. At some point in the movie, I recognized the laugh of someone behind me. I turned around and... if it wasn't John McGwynn, my ex-boyfriend's buddy, sitting four rows up with a bunch of friends! I went up to join them. I didn't know the others, but they were happy to include me. They were all stoned out of their gourds. They invited me home with them after the movie, and I ended up having a very stoned and jolly Turkey Day.


My good friend Pat Bond was in a nursing home. She had lung cancer. I was her best friend, so of course I was going to spend the holiday with her. Her roommate, Irma, was in a coma, which didn't make for the most cheery environment.

Suddenly Irma's big African-American family burst in. Twelve people hauling containers big and small, with turkey dinner and all the fixings. Mama Irma was the indomitable matriarch of the family, and there was no way they were going to spend Thanksgiving away from her as long as she was above ground.

Pat and I wondered how we were going to fit our little quiet Thanksgiving in, with all of these big loud jolly people in the room. But we were embraced, swallowed up. We became part of Mama Irma's family for the day. They insisted we put away the nursing home's holiday dinner and share their food.

Perhaps they were particularly jolly now that Mama Irma couldn't rule the roost. They confessed to us that they had all lived in fear of her. Mama Irma always told them, "You're on this earth to do good and be good!" -- and if you didn't live up to her ideas about those two activities, you would feel her wrath. She was a matriarch and a half!

So, although they were very sad that Mama Irma was comatose, there was also something to be said for it, especially on a holiday. They laughed and sang and told family stories, especially about Mama Irma. And then there was the amazing feast they had brought with them. Pat and I felt completely at home and had a wonderful time.

And that was Pat's last Thanksgiving.

I'm seeing a theme in these two Thanksgivings -- miraculous interventions by African-Americans.


I adored my Auntie Hannah. Well, everyone did. She was funny and warm and politically hip. She donated money to my campaigns when I ran for office.

Hannah lived in Los Angeles. She and my mother were very close, the last ones of their generation. Hannah used to say that she and my mom talked on the phone every day to do the L.A. Times crossword puzzle and to make sure they were both still breathing. Hannah was devastated when my mother died in 2011.

And then Hannah took a bad fall in her apartment. Her children, Miriam in Modesto and Sam in Jerusalem, insisted that she could no longer live alone. So she moved to a very nice assisted living home in Modesto in the Central Valley, to be near Miriam. They invited me for Thanksgiving.

Modesto is beautiful in the Fall. It's nickname is The City of Trees, and there were multitudes and they were all full of bright gold leaves. Actually, Thanksgiving day was perfectly nice, with dinner in a restaurant. It was the day after that was special. Miriam and I took a long walk under the golden trees, and she told me how happy she was to have her mother close. Then we went to see the movie LINCOLN, which focused on the last few months of his life when he was trying to abolish slavery and get the 13th Amendment to the Constitution passed. It was a wonderful movie, and then we went to a hip and funky cafe and talked and talked.

It's not an exciting story. But the three of us were together on Thanksgiving, as we had been every single Turkey Day with the rest of the family for decades until all us kids started moving away. Now, only Hannah remained of her generation. And all the children of my generation were scattered. But the three of us were in golden Modesto together, eating Thanksgiving dinner in a nice restaurant, going to a good movie and hanging out in a cafe. Just having a wonderful time

A lovely memory.

That's all for now, Bloggelinis. Have a happy Thanksgiving Day. Terry

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