Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I get to eat a wonderful meal with my family without the stress of gift shopping first. No trying to guess if Junior wants some specific video game that makes you blush to pick up. No attempt to figure out if Sissy wears see through tops that also make you blush. Nope, just a wonderful day of overindulgence in food followed by tryptophan induced naps.
This year I'm spending the holiday with my East Coast family. Given the devastation that Sandy created, I'm very grateful to have everyone in one piece with homes that, if damaged, can be repaired. We have two new family members to celebrate, two little babies to be passed from one loving set of arms to another as everyone proclaims them the most perfect baby girls ever. Our table will groan with traditional dishes, new age dishes and family favorites from the many different families that now make up one.
There will be a lot of laughter despite the recent losses we've suffered. This will be the first Thanksgiving without any Zeccardi elders. I guess my generation now comprises the elders since the generation above us has moved on to a different feast in a different location.
Laughing has always come easily in my family because many of us are blessed with a sense of the absurd and refuse to let those who are not take control of the conversation. Tears may occasionally be shed and sadness permeates the table as we realize that some familiar faces will never be there again. Those moments tend to fade quickly as we laugh over the wonderful and insane memories of them we've banked over the years.
We miss Aunt Adeline but find it hard to stay sad while recalling the story of the time she baked the dish towel in the turkey, thus creating a Thanksgiving dinner that had everything but turkey. Apparently when you cook a dish towel in a turkey for four hours, the dish towel tends to infuse the otherwise mouthwatering taste of the meat. No amount of prompting convinced our uncles that hot dogs were a good substitute. It was the one and only time Aunt Adeline was allowed to host Thanksgiving.
Of course, that didn't stop her from bringing her very own sensibility to other Thanksgiving dinners. You haven't really tasted cranberry sauce unless you tasted her homemade version of it. She didn't like sugar or sweet things. So she made cranberry sauce without any sweetening agent at all. It gave a whole new meaning to the word "pucker."
I remember childhood Thanksgivings with my father making his Clams Casino for appetizers. This wasn't the Clams Casino you order in restaurants. This was his special recipe Clams Casino. They would come out of the broiler and onto the table and the hardest part of the whole meal was waiting for them to cool enough to slam down. My mother would hover around the periphery of the table telling people to slow down because she'd cooked a turkey and they had to save room for that too.
If I had one wish for the world on Thanksgiving it would be that everyone could have their own wonderful memories. And, even more, that they would be sitting down at dinner with family and friends, continuing to create even more wonderful memories. I would wish that everyone had a day full of laughter and love ahead of them that would start their holiday season off on just the right note.
But we all know that's not reality. There are a lot of people for whom this day is just another one to survive, whether in the streets, in jail or in a soup kitchen. Memories are all they have, if they even have that, of the wonderful time this day can be. We should all spend a moment thanking whoever we believe in for giving us so much. And we should ask that those who have so little will be able to know even a scintilla of the happiness we enjoy and, all too often, take for granted.
The holiday season is starting. While you're fighting your way through the Black Friday crowds, remember to pick up a little something extra for those who have nothing. Bean's can always use another turkey.
Elise Patkotak is an Alaska writer and author of "Parallel Logic," a memoir of her 28 years in Barrow.