Posted by: Nazausgraben | November 27, 2020

THANKSGIVING MEMORIES


Greetings from a lovely icy Tirolean Fall day. The cloudless azure Heavens are broken by the jagged snow-capped Alps surrounding our valley. Even the softest of grasses, tho’ not yet bedecked in white, are made rock solid; trodding the fields barefoot about our home bring to mind those Indian mystics traversing carpets of needles. Such bounding about is said to enhance blood flow to the extremities whilst at the same time providing balsam for the soul. For me, such balsam is provided by a warm cup by the fire and a local newspaper in hand; the blood flow to my extremities is already quite sufficient, thank you.

Earlier this morning, Susi and I greeted each other with warm, Thanksgiving wishes, this despite the reality that the Austrian Thanksgiving (Erntedankfest) was celebrated here last month. It was quite a different Thanksgiving indeed, thanking God for the bounteous harvest provided…beautiful yet not at all the same. As noted in my BLOG narrative of some years ago (2009).

For at this time of the festive year, I find myself dwelling…. no….immersed in cascades of fond nostalgia. For it is from Halloween until Epiphany that there is an almost visceral magic about. The warm and beloved memories abound.

There was…there still is…Thanksgiving Day, as Mom prepared the feast for the multitudes that later that day would descend upon our home and Dad arranged his pipe collection such that the most impressive European imports would be prominently displayed. Still pajama’d, I was rooted in-place cross-legged and unmovable on the thick, carpeted living room floor fore the large television; a piece of furniture in itself, a thick heavy wooden box sporting four thick elegantly carved legs. I used to peer with fascination into the air holes carved into the thick cardboard rear panel to watch the soft mesmerizing glow emanating from the ranks of tubes that made this 10-year old wonder how they helped create the black and white image on the glass screen at the front. My pondering the science behind this was short-lived, however……there were hours of parades yet to be seen!

The King of parades at that time was, of course, that of Macys in New York. In my mind’s eye, the skies were almost always gray, thick clouds sending, on occasion, wisps of snow to cover the masses of children and parents lining the miles along which a host of college bands, huge cartoon figure balloons, wonderful floats, flags everywhere, cowboys and cowgirls attired in their Roy Rogers Sunday best astride gallant four-legged steeds , clowns, acrobats, Policemen, military units displaying their marching and rifle spinning prowess, an occasional popular Hollywood star would walk on by or sit high in the rear seat of a convertible whose roof was opened to the elements, and so much more.

Of note is that this was not the only parade to be had; rather, switching to one of the other broadcasters would reveal a bevy of other festivities. One favorite showed four parades from different parts of the United States, from New York, to Chicago, Florida, Hawaii, and more. By deftly switching from one channel to the other during advertisements, one could gorge oneself on a feast of visual sweets, more than sufficient for the year to come. Still, in doing so it was necessary to be mindful of the time, for it was critical to be back at the Macy’s parade for the final greatest of great events. You knew it was happening when the scarf, woolen mitten and ski capped announcers eyes suddenly lit with glee and their countenance went from merely festive to child-like excitement.

Red-suited and capped elves appeared, skipping and dancing as they made their ways along the peripheries of 34th Street. Between them, the most privileged of all the high school and college bands ended what they were already playing and, with four loud steady snare drum rim strikes, began to play a Christmas song or carol…Hark the Herald, Jingle Bells, Santa Claus is Coming….a signal that he was there. A massive elegant float decorated in snow, prancing mechanical reindeer, a massive toy-filled sleigh and a very jolly corpulent, bearded jingle bell belted Santa was to be seen, waving first to those on one side of the ecstatic street, then turning to others. His pre-recorded voice boomed out hearty Christmas Greetings and a barrage of “HO HO’s” to all.

With this, the parade was at an end, but this was just the beginning. The scene changed to a warm, comfortable close-up of the venerable William Conrad sitting on a thick leather chair, the room dimly lit by table top lamps and a nearby hearth with its blazing logs. In the dim mists of memory I seem to recall that he read of the Nativity from Luke, and made note of the true meaning of Christmas. For, with the appearance of Santa at the end of the parade, this was, in the U.S., the official start of the Christmas season.

It was then, as midday approached, that the television was turned off, for it was time to prepare for the fest to come. The one aspect of this I did not enjoy (yes, hated) was having to wear the white shirt provided by Mom for the day. It had been washed and thoroughly starched such that one could place it, unworn, onto the floor and it would stand up, literally stand up stiff as a board, on its own! It is difficult to describe the feeling against ones skin when donning this cold, hard  medieval torture device; the only solace came from knowing that about the mid-meal time, the effects of the starch would begin to wear off and I could move mys arms without the feeling of frozen cardboard stabbing into my joints. It was also about this time during the meal that I could remove my tie, for the desserts were about to appear and they were easier to eat without having the end of a tie stained in berry juice, pudding and assorted whipped creams, and fillings. I invariably set my sights invariably on the pumpkin and pecan pies way down at the other end of the table.

Following this gustatory bacchanalia, guests repaired to the living room where they flopped, stomachs fully laden and digestion already well underway, onto whatever sitting convenience they could find. The faux leather recliner was the most sought-after. One particular already well-nourished uncle, now feeling abit peaked having thoroughly over-eaten and feeling somewhat ill with turkey breast and heaping repeated portions of stuffing, mashed potatoes and cream sauce and canned crispy onion bit covered string beans, would descend slowly to the recliner’s seat and, with regal aplomb, bring it to its furthest near-horizontal position, simultaneously retrieving a large stogie from his suit jacket pocket and, lighting it, puffing out clouds of a not unpleasant sweet tobacco.

It was at this early part of the evening that I usually ascended the stairs to my bedroom and, as the adults spoke of worldly matters below, spent the remainder of Thanksgiving reading and listening to music…Christmas music, for this most wonderful time of the year finally had arrived. Soon thereafter, as it turned purple outside, the comforting muffled drone of voices mixed with choir Noels and ensconced in the soft, secure warmth of family, I found myself slowly drifting into sweet sleep. There I remained as relatives began to depart into the snowy night.


Responses

  1. You can take the boy out of Long Island, but the thoughts of those Thanksgivings of our youth will never leave us! Happy belated Thanksgiving my friend, and the happiest of Christmas seasons to you and Suzi! Thinking back to singing Christmas carols together in your Maverick! Be well!

    Frank

    • Dear Frank and Sue! Yes, many wonderful memories indeed, my friend. Perhaps one day we will be able to sing Christmas carols together again…this time here in Austria. Sending very best regards from the Tirol! – Andy and Susi


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