I grew up the youngest of seven, so Thanksgiving was always a big turkey and an even bigger crowd. By the time I was seven, grandchildren started appearing, so much so, that the year I was 17 there were about forty immediate family members at the house for Thanksgiving. My mother cooked everything. I never heard her complain nor did I ever witness any stress about this annual production. Mom just got on with things.
My father passed away in September of the year I turned 21. I was the only one living in the house with Mom at this time, as my older siblings were married. It was early in November that Mom started getting phone calls from each of her children, being invited to their house for Thanksgiving. It was probably thought that the gathering in her house would not be the same without Dad, maybe it was time for a change, maybe this would be best for Mom. I am sure my siblings had phone conversations along those lines in their concern for their mother, now a widow, as the holiday approached. Each time Mom said thank you, adding that she would think about it.
The Sunday before Thanksgiving I was sitting in the dining room with my mother. I was curious to whose house we would be going, so I asked my mother. And this is what she said:
“Well, Susie, we are going to have a leisurely morning around here, and then we are going to get all dressed up and drive into New York City and you and I are going to have our Thanksgiving Dinner at the Palm Court at the Waldorf Astoria. “
And that is just what we did. My mother’s blue eyes sparkled with delight as she tucked into her turkey dinner amidst the hushed elegance of the Palm Court at the Waldorf Astoria. My parents had married in 1933 which meant that my mother had been cooking on Thanksgiving Day for 41 years. Clearly, this woman who had seven children and a copious number of grandchildren had her own idea about Thanksgiving. I have wondered on occasion when this idea first began to brew for my mother. I am so grateful that I was there to witness its implementation.
I have always felt blessed to have had an older mother. The perspective I saw by her side, the insights I was given through her words, and the guts I gained by watching her in action have endowed my life immeasurably.