Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

Twenty-Five-Year-Old Thanksgiving Leftovers

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We assume, with no justification whatsoever, that your Thanksgiving went swimmingly, especially if you are a salmon. We shall refrain from inquiring about family relations, heartburn, tryptophan, burnt or undercooked pumpkin pie, lousy squash, Superman reruns from the 1950s, King Kong, pointless parades, the Detroit Lions, or the onset of the “official” holiday shopping season.

We shall, however, share some memories of our own Thanksgivings of yore. Our cynical tone here – and our distant, formal use of the first-person plural – should in no way be construed as a lack of nostalgia, or of disdain for the experiences detailed below. Except for the commercials. Oh, my goodness, were they awful, exacerbated by their frequency. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

People make a big deal about turkey and various “traditional” Thanksgiving foods, but we remember no such fuss. There was definitely turkey, but our family Thanksgiving meals bore the unmistakable mark of our immigrant family experience, not the “native” lore. And it wasn’t about the food anyway.

It might have been about the TV, though, at least as far as the kids were concerned. We paid occasional visits to the dining room of whichever home the festivities occupied that year – paternal grandparents, cousins or our own home – but then only to ingest token morsels of turkey and to gorge on fresh rye bread.

No, not the actual painting, but I'll change this image if I ever find it online.

The most vivid memories involve our grandparents’ apartment in the Bronx, with its ornate décor and plastic-covered sofa underneath the painting of King Solomon ordering the disputed infant divided between rival claimants, across from the display cabinet with the never-used china and crystal. On top of that rested the candy dish, with the fruit-flavored rectangular candies that our grandmother carried everywhere in case she saw any grandchildren (and, we discovered in later years, in case she craved them, despite her chronic diabetes).

The children would lounge in the small den-cum-cosmetics-boutique (we loved to play with the lights on my grandmother’s three-part makeup mirror) where the ancient, hulking Zenith was tuned to King Kong, followed by Mighty Joe Young – though in slightly later years, it featured Superman reruns, hosted by the guy who played Jimmy Olsen, resplendent in an awful bow tie. The tie was almost as bad as the acting in that show. My parents’ generation grew up, for lack of a better term, watching that, and its rebroadcast every year on Thanksgiving may me suspect that their nostalgia might, just might, be completely unwarranted.

There’s something to be said for repetition: twenty-five or so years later, we still have a stupid commercial jingle stuck in our head, for a now-bust department store, thanks to the network airing the ad at every single commercial break during King Kong (“Consuuuumerrrrrs! We wrote the book – on savings!”). It aired almost as many times as the ad for the windows, with the breathless, this-is-the-most-exciting-thing-you’ve-ever-encountered voice over with images of money pouring out through open windows, then back in again when the Eliminator! windows were installed. Hey, sign us up. A distant, but by no means ignorable, third place went to ads for the similarly long-defunct Child World franchise, with some poor actor in a panda suit pretending to be amazed at the selection.

We never watched the Macy’s parade. Ever. We – and here we use the genuine editorial we, not the pompous, royal we – could never understand why anyone would. Football, of course, we can understand, even enjoy, although we get the impression some folks over in Detroit would rather the whole thing just disappear for a decade or two. In early-to-mid-adolescence, the scene shifted from our grandparents’ place to our cousins’, and football became the default, largely on account of my uncle, and we slowly forgot about King Kong and Joe Young.

And here we shift pronouns again, and you’ll see why. I miss my grandparents terribly. My grandmother died four years ago, and my grandfather, ten. The apartment they had in the Bronx – where they lived since about 1960 – is no longer remotely associated with them, but every now and then I get pangs of longing for the way the china cabinets and their delicate contents would jiggle slightly when we ran or jumped about the place – inevitably getting warned not to thus upset the downstairs neighbors in 4J; for the narrow hallway connecting the kitchen, bedroom, living/dining room and bathroom; for the ugly-as-sin carpet in the den; and for myriad other little irretrievable details that only accented the old-world sensibilities driving everything my grandparents did.

We have our own family celebrations now, and my parents lovingly fill the grandparent niche. I wonder how my children will remember these days. This I can guarantee, however: commercials will play no part in that. We’ve, uh, Eliminated! those from our home.


Written by Thag

November 27, 2010 at 8:01 pm

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