When I was growing up Thanksgiving was my favorite time of year. It was not because we had a wonderful festive meal with our extended family. For my family it was just about the 4 of us; me, my brother and my parents. Each year we spent the holiday at the Concord hotel in the Catskills, one of the many old "Jewish" resorts that are no longer around.
To me it was the height of luxury. We ate all of our meals in the giant dining room and we dressed for dinner (we still have some great pictures of our family all dressed up taken by a "professional" photographer). The Concord had a real night club where famous people like Ben Vereen, Gladys Night and the Pips and Hal Linden performed. There was also a carnival where each year the same woman swallowed swords much to our amazement. Every year we had the same waitress, a Holocaust survivor names Lola who adored my father and severed us champagne ices on Saturday night. Many of the same families went back each year so there were also special Thanksgiving friends. We spent 5 days swimming, ice skating, skiing, eating and have the time of our lives.
After my father died we went back for a few years but it was never the same for us. I remember that Lola had to stop being our waitress because she cried every time she came near our table. The first year after my father died I was 15 and my brother was 12. When we drove through the South Bronx in our car on the way to the Concord my brother and I took turns pointing at burned out buildings and saying " I have some really bad news for you, see that building over there? That's our new home". We laughed hysterically, still raw from my father's death 5 month before and unsure of our future. This is one of my most treasured memories.
I started spending Thanksgiving with my husband's family the first year we met, when he was still my boyfriend. His family had a tradition of going to see a Broadway play each year and that year we saw Les Mis. By the next year my nephew had been born and we began having a big family meal at my sister in law's. Broadway is no place for babies and there would be 5 more to come! This year will be my 19th Thanksgiving with them. It is now my family's tradition.
I have lots of memories from the 18 Thanksgivings we've spent together. Like the year my nephew was 2 and my sister in law and brother in law let him watch the Year Before Time instead of letting the adults watching the football game. My husband and I smugly swore we would never let a child control us like that. Of course we eventually realized exactly why one would actually make that choice when we had kids.
My favorite memory with my husband's family was in 2001, right after 9/11, when every one was feeling very patriotic and we all spontaneously burst into G-d Bless America during dinner. The kids love spending the holiday with their cousins and are forming their own memories. Every year the boys play football, the girls dance and Poppy (my father in law) gives all the kids gifts. It's a good gig and I really look forward to it each year.
Since I don't spend the holiday with my brother and mom anymore I do miss being with them on Thanksgiving. What I really miss, though, is that memory of ourselves, when we dressed for dinner. The one where my dad is wearing a suit and my mom has on a long crushed velvet dress that looked like it had been tie dyed. The version of of us when I was still taller than my brother.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone. May you all add new and beautiful memories from your holiday gathering this year.