Thanksgiving meals end quickly, but memories linger | NevadaAppeal.com

Thanksgiving meals end quickly, but memories linger

by John DiMambro

Thanksgiving – the day when the mom of the household (or other) exhaustively prepares all week for a sprawling, steaming dinner that takes most ravenous family members and friends only five minutes to eat. Well, better make it 10 minutes to allow for time lapses in passing around the bowls.

Thanksgiving Day dinner at a relative’s house was always an experience – sort of like a “Twin Peaks” episode drenched in religious conflict and social secrecy. But that was actually all part of the charm. I still think of those times with a hint of sadness, because those days have long expired and have now transitioned to geographic separations, death and worst of all, personal differences.

Not with my own immediate family back home, or with my wife’s family, but with relatives. The same relatives you thought would cling to your side forever. They’ve clung to my side all right. Like an infected boil. But I have to believe that even the ones who were the biggest sores are fondly locked in my memory for a reason.

Memories hold a healing power of forgiveness, especially if the memories are from when we were so much younger. It’s like each of us comes equipped with a memory filter that edits out some of the unfavorable thoughts we currently have for some people from our past, allowing entry to only good thoughts of those same people as time goes on. There really is something special in all of what defines our lives. The good. The bad. The never happened.

I can still see us all at one long table. Thirteen, sometimes 15 of us. And then, the saying of grace. Sitting with bowed head, folded hands resting on the edge of a dinner plate and one eye closed, I would look up and look around at everyone else sitting with their heads bowed in real or manufactured reverence. And as my one eye fell on each of the others sitting at the table, I was met with their own one-eyed look.

But even with one eye closed, I could see everyone’s folded hands loosening, fingers weaving in and out, primed and intensely positioned like the feet of a sprinter in the starting gate running blocks. And they were waiting, just waiting for that one word that carried starting-gun effect – that one word that signals the go-ahead to spring out with puma-like reflexes and eagle-eyed accuracy – “Amen.”

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At the sound of that word, even our most overweight relatives who were wedged in their chairs would flash out hands faster than Sugar Ray Leonard. I swear they would even throw what appeared to be combination flurries as they reached for the bowls of mashed potatoes, stuffing, yams and rolls.

Music aficionados used to call Eric Clapton “Slowhand,” because when he was a young guitar god, his fingers moved so fast on his guitar strings that they took on the trance-inducing illusion of slow motion, like fan blades set to high speed. Well, those same people never saw my relatives at the Thanksgiving Day table.

During those moments of giving thanks, grace could have been the lyrics of an Eminem song or excerpts from a Chris Rock monologue. No one would have noticed. They were too busy eye-balling each other, sizing up the competition, readying themselves to pounce when the time was right. Only, their prey wasn’t an antelope or a gazelle. It was the basted carcass of a stuffed turkey.

Poor little guy. Just a few weeks before, he was probably having fun with his friends at a local poultry feed bar, catching up on the latest gobble gossip, checking out the singles section of the barnyard. Then, the big face-off with fate. And just like that, Mr. Turkey has an open casket viewing on the dining room table. And while he lies there on his metal tray, everyone just stares and says, “Gee, he looks good. Very good.” And then after, “He was a good turkey. Such a good turkey.”

Anyway, forgive the tangent. After the dining room table would take on the look of a Three Stooges melee engaged by 15 people, it was time for old movies, or football on TV, or belting out some Zs on the nearby sofa or floor of the living room whose light had been deadened and laid to rest for the quiet of after-dinner talk and the solace of an after-dinner drink. Old Christmas song standards built musical walls against animated shadows cast from the flame-filled mouth of a fireplace, which harmonized as it whistled and popped in tune with the caroling from the stereo.

We were all there, and it was all so reassuring. And again, that feeling that this would all last forever would caress us and make us smile. If only that childlike feeling would have stayed forever. If only it could.

• John DiMambro is publisher of the Nevada Appeal. Write to him at jdimambro@nevadaappeal.com.