This is my 83rd Thanksgiving. I don’t remember the first one. It was probably snowing. The early years are a blur, but I do recall sitting around the large, otherwise unused dining room table with the crisp, white holiday tablecloth which had been properly stored, washed and ironed for the occasion. My mother’s special china, brought out for Thanksgiving and the High Holidays, was carefully laid out at each place. My dad always sat at the head of the table and was served first. Mom never seemed to sit down. She was always jumping up to respond to dad’s commands. She ate while preparing the meal and snacked her way through our dinner. The menu was a blend of old world and new – the traditional turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie was served alongside beef brisket, matzoh ball soup, gefilte fish and kugel. Everything was kosher. The early holidays were special in that all five of us were together –my parents, me, my brother Marty and sister Ruby. In later years my sister brought her new husband, but my brother was a no-show after 1951, once he left for college and then his life beyond, dealmaking in New York City. Thanksgiving holidays for me represent different parts of my life. Early childhood, brother and sister at home, the years I returned for the holiday from college followed by marriage, and then returning to my childhood home with my late wife and our young children. After my parents retired to Florida, our family Thanksgivings were on our own in East Hampton.
Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that is fixed in the calendar, always the fourth Thursday of November. These holiday milestone markers remain the same, while the participants and locations change, dictated by where one sets down a home. Looking back over 83 years of Thanksgivings, reflecting on memorable times with parents, siblings, loved ones past and children, I realize it is a holiday about looking to the past, not the future. Unlike New Year’s celebrations when we look ahead, Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for all we have and have had, and for simply sitting at a table to share a meal with those close to us — being in the room where it happens, so to speak. I look forward to this year’s Thanksgiving, despite the fact that we are not all at the table. Each Thanksgiving is a short, shining moment in life’s story – enjoy it while you can.