The great Turkey Festival and Food Frenzy Season is upon us and it is a big month for our family. In addition to celebrating Thanksgiving we have seven birthdays—two kids and five adults. And while the holiday remains the same, our location for the main event is moving. And that’s okay. You see, for almost forty years, my husband and I were Thanksgiving Central for our extended family. Each year in November, we hoisted the Turkey Signal and called the kinfolk to our home.
Over time, after decades of doing most of the cooking, we began to first cater the event, then to take the family out to dinner. After all, we reasoned, who wants to cook and clean up? It turned out my niece and her wife wanted to take on this family duty, and with a grateful heart, I said, “Yes, thank you.” This year, with a new baby girl on a tight sleeping schedule, our son and daughter-in-law proposed to do it at their house. My niece said sure—but “I usually travel with a party of eight people”. Not a problem, my son responded, we will set up a table in the kitchen. Naturally, I volunteered to sit at the kids’ table. That’s where all the fun will be. In Judaism we call this L’Dor V’Dor, from Generation to Generation, passing the baton of our culture and family traditions on to our children and grandchildren. It is the most precious gift we can give to our family.
As I reflect on this year’s intergenerational event, I am reminded of Thanksgivings past. One of the most memorable was the year my husband had a myocardial infarction in late October and almost died. He was forty and I was thirty-eight. We had a six-year-old son. For two nights in a row, I returned to the ER with him in excruciating chest pain. The second night, the cardiologist decided to keep him in the hospital. The next morning, I was called to get to the hospital, they were taking him for a cardiac catheterization. This all sounds very tame now, but thirty years ago it was not. It was quite dangerous, a patient could die while undergoing the test. It turned out that he had blown out the tip of his heart in what is classically known as “The Widow Maker.” Lucky for us, he had an anatomical variation that enabled him to defy the odds. As he rested in bed on IVs, with monitors beeping, he took my hand in his cold one and said, “I want a dog.”
Now, this was an old conversation and I had been adamant about no dogs. We had a herd of cats. We both worked twelve hour days. It wouldn’t be fair to the dog. We had a preschooler. I had marshalled all the arguments before this event, I knew what I should say. But as he held my hand looking like death warmed over, I said, “What kind?”
My husband wasn’t sure, but as soon as he was discharged (ten days later), he was ready for trip to the local charity’s pet farm. I managed to put it off for a while, after all he was busy with cardiac rehabilitation and recovering from a major life event. Finally, he was well enough for the family to make the short trip to the neighboring suburb. A litter of German Shorthair Pointers had just arrived and one was cuter than the next. One floppy eared puppy wobbled over to the three of us and my husband and son looked at me and said, “This one.”
We named him Thunder because when he ran in the house, he sounded like a storm rolling over the Chicago area where we lived. He was the cutest puppy. All ears and legs. And he was the best therapy for my husband who was home all day while I worked. Thunder was, shall we say, just a bit spoiled. That Thanksgiving, we sent up the Turkey Beacon and the family rolled in for dinner. I prepared everything from soup to nuts, a real celebration of life. I put away the food, my husband said, “Leave the dishes. Let’s go watch the Macy’s parade.” We all trooped downstairs to our family room (we had a split level rancher) and proceeded to enjoy the floats. In the distance, I began to hear some clinking and I thought it was odd. I went back upstairs and called the family to join me. There in the middle of the table, happily licking each plate was the puppy. He had managed to climb onto a chair and then the table. What a happy boy he was! After removing Thunder from the table, his stubbly little tail wagging, we collected the dishes, still laughing.
The boys in the turkey costumes continue the tradition of dogs in our home. Harbor (on the left) is our rescue dog and Agent Frank (on the right) is in charge of getting in trouble. They are helping us to make new memories, along with the rest of the family. I wish you all love and good remembrances for this and every holiday. Hold your loved ones close. You never know what lies around the corner, what life will bring, good or bad. What we do know is we can share our love with our friends and family and pass the baton to the next generation.
Meows and Mistletoe