This time of the year we all hear stories from family and friends reminiscing over Thanksgiving Day celebrations of the past and how important they were in each one’s life. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed that and not in a good way. With the increased spread of the virus restrictions on gatherings, even for families, have been put into place.
I hear a lot of people moaning and groaning over what they aren’t allowed to do or what they don’t have. I still can’t believe that wearing a face covering, a mask, has become such a big political issue. My response to the anti-mask wearers is simple. “If masks don’t work how about the next time you have to have surgery tell the surgeon and his team to take off their masks since they won’t save lives.” We are in a war against the virus and must take the proper precautions if we are going to survive.
Instead of complaining about what we don’t have or what we can’t do maybe we should be thankful for what we do have. So many people have lost everything in the wildfires and many people have lost family and friends to the virus. Instead of making such a big deal of not being able to get together with family and friends for that big Thanksgiving Day dinner maybe we should look forward to everyone being alive to get together next year to share that meal. After all it is really only one day out of your life.
For me the day before Thanksgiving takes precedence over Thanksgiving Day hands down. You might wonder why the day before one of our most important holidays stands out above all of those “family” Thanksgiving Day celebrations for me, so what follows, an article I wrote in November 2013, will describe the events of that fateful day.
The date is November 14, 1968 just one day before Thanksgiving. My wife (Sue) and I (now married for 51 years) had been dating since 1963 and I had a plan for a wonderful evening. First we would go to a movie and then dinner afterwards at our favorite restaurant. I am one of those people who likes to have everything planned out so that it would be a truly memorable event.
I need to backtrack just a bit so you’ll understand why I had to have such a flawless plan in place. A few days earlier I set up an appointment (boy does that sound formal) with Sue’s father. Today it may seem like a very old fashioned tradition, but I wanted to make sure I could talk to him without Sue being present. You may have already guessed what I was doing. I explained to him that I was obviously in love with his daughter and wanted his permission to ask her to marry me. I was surprised by the question he then asked me. He wanted to know what would happen if he refused to give his permission. If I remember correctly, I responded that I was in love with Sue and really respected him enough to ask, but if his answer was no I would discuss it with Sue and we’d both decide what would happen next. I didn’t have to worry because both of her parents said yes. I had already picked out the engagement ring and paid half down and the rest when I picked it up.
Now back to the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The plan was for us to go to see Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” at a local theater.
Since we were going out to dinner after the movie I wore a suit. It was cold outside so I was also wearing a topcoat. I had the ring in the fancy ring box in my topcoat pocket because in any other pocket it might be noticed prematurely. I picked Sue up at her house, her parents waved goodbye, and off we went. We stood in line at the theater waiting to be let in. We arrived at the ticket booth, I purchased 2 tickets and in we went. After standing so long in the cold it was comfortably warm in the theater so as was the custom we took off our coats and laid them on the seat and back of our chairs. We sat down and waited for the previews to start. Meanwhile I am still thinking about the ring inside the box in the right hand pocket of my topcoat. We were both enjoying the movie so much that we were surprised when the “Intermission” graphic and music started. That meant it’s time to go to the lobby to get something to drink and maybe some popcorn. The usual thing to do was to leave your coats over the chairs so nobody could steal your seats while you were gone. My head started spinning. What do I do now? I can’t take my coat with me because she will become suspicious, but if I leave the coat someone could take it stealing her diamond ring. I hope nobody follows my example because I decided to leave the coat and pray that it and the ring didn’t walk away under the arm of a coat thief. I’m sure my blood pressure was sky high and my pulse was racing all the time we were in the lobby. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I sat back down on my coat, felt the ring box still in my coat pocket, and opened the box just enough to feel the ring still safely inside. We watched the rest of the movie and, as usual, stayed through the very end of the credits roll.
We walked back to my car and headed for our favorite restaurant.
We arrived at the Aloha Polynesian Restaurant where I had reservations. We were seated at our table and ordered drinks. We discussed the intricacies of the movie and when our waiter came back we ordered our dinner. Ok, the time is now, I thought. I slipped the ring box into my right hand, told Sue I loved her and asked her to marry me as I opened the ring box and offered it to her. She did say yes, but alternated between laughing and crying just as the food was brought to us. I finally had to suggest that we start eating before our food got cold.
We enjoyed a leisurely meal and I took her back home. I was invited to come back for Thanksgiving dinner and of course I accepted. What I didn’t realize was how complicated that answer became.
When I went home I told my parents how the evening went and mentioned the invitation for dinner. My mother responded by telling me that I would be eating Thanksgiving dinner at home with my parents like always. The schedule for dinnertime worked to my advantage, sort of. Sue’s family, including her sister and her parents, usually ate Thanksgiving dinner in the afternoon and my parents and I in the early evening. I created the “monster compromise.” It was simple really. I’d go eat Thanksgiving dinner at Sue’s house and then come back home and nibble on a little more turkey with my parents. As the platters were passed to me by Sue’s parents I took a “reasonable” amount of turkey breast, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and stuffing. I also had a piece of pumpkin pie for desert. We chatted for a while and then I explained I had to return home so I could be with my parents too. I really did think I could get away with eating a very light dinner at home since I was already pleasantly full. That might work with some parents but not mine. I was told I would be eating my usual plate full of turkey white meat, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, sweet potato, and stuffing. I managed to get through the meal without exploding, but you can see why the day before Thanksgiving holds a higher place in my heart than the Thanksgiving Day when I felt as full as the helium-filled turkey balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. We were married the following August and we decided that our first Thanksgiving together as a married couple would be just us in our own apartment. That way we didn’t have to worry about eating two full turkey dinners in the same day. We spent time with both sets of parents, but without being stuffed. Feel free to share your Thanksgiving story. I’d love to hear it.
Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].