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Nostalgia November 2016

Phase Three

Giving Thanks for Past and Present

By Arnold Bornstein

"Do you know," he asked rhetorically, "they had to take some songs out of the jukebox? They took out ‘I'll Be Home for Christmas.’ Some guys would have a few too many beers, hear the song and end up going AWOL."

Some things seem to stay in your mind forever, like when I was 12 years old and my mom, sister and I were visiting my oldest brother at Fort Knox, Kentucky, during World War II. He was undergoing basic training and would eventually be sent to England and then to northern France shortly after D-Day.

We were sitting at a table in the Post Exchange, or PX – the military equivalent of a store, cafeteria and beer hall. My mother was very upset because my brother, George, had injured his hand on a tank hatch. George abruptly tried to change the subject. The holiday season was underway, the period from Thanksgiving to Christmas and New Year's.

"Do you know," he asked rhetorically, "they had to take some songs out of the jukebox? They took out ‘I'll Be Home for Christmas.’ Some guys would have a few too many beers, hear the song and end up going AWOL."

I was driving home the other day when they started talking about Thanksgiving on the car radio. The remembrance of what my brother had said at the PX a long time ago came back once again, somewhat like the momentary flashbacks used in the movies.

Thanksgiving is coming up, and other than religious holidays, it's perhaps the most family-oriented holiday on the calendar. Whether away at school or living and/or working out of town, many people make an extra effort to try to be home for the Thanksgiving holiday. The Thanksgiving long weekend is considered one of the airline industry's most traveled periods. It's also a peak period for the phone companies, as callers know that families are generally gathered at one place.

Merchants will also tell you that the day after Thanksgiving is one of the busiest shopping days of the year. If you doubt this, try your nearest mall on the Friday after Thanksgiving. It's called Black Friday.

Thanksgiving played a major role in my meeting my wife's family. I was working for the New Haven Register in Connecticut, considered the oldest, continuous daily newspaper in the nation, and it was in that city that I met my wife Linda. We had been seeing each other for about three months when I was invited to Linda's parents’ home for Thanksgiving dinner.

Her mother had a sister and two brothers, and each year the dinner was rotated at a different household. This particular year it was Linda's parents' turn. As can be imagined, it's not easy for anybody to be introduced to a new family, particularly when the occasion included future aunts and uncles and their children – the adults all gathered around the table, with the children siting at a nearby table.

Yes, I felt stress and tension, of course, perhaps like I was being studied or auditioned, but after a while things calmed down and I felt reasonably at ease. Some four months later, we got married. I think my wife and I rotated a few Thanksgivings between our respective families after that.

Naturally, my wife's family continued to grow and eventually the annual tradition of the
Thanksgiving gathering became too large for one household. The decision was made to try holding it in a private room in a restaurant. It wasn't the same, of course, and a year or two later the respective and still-growing families of the two sisters and two brothers split up into having Thanksgiving dinner with their own immediate families.

Several years ago, part of our family was away. The small group remaining at home decided against cooking and cleaning up afterwards, and instead we made reservations at a nearby restaurant. In recent years, our son and daughter-in-law, who live near us, have been having the annual Thanksgiving dinner for our respective families.

We all have very early remembrances of Thanksgivings past, of voices and laughter that can no longer be heard, except in the mind's ear, and of faces and bodies that can no longer be seen, except in the mind's eye. It is truly a family holiday in which we give thanks for the past as well as the present. And wherever your port may be, your home is your anchor.

As they say, there's no place like home for the holidays.


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