If you are reading this, you have, hopefully, survived another Thanksgiving.
I always looked forward to Thanksgiving when I was little. The ones that I remember the best are the ones we celebrated at my paternal grandparents’ house in Brooklyn. My cousins from Falls Church, Virginia, would be there and my grandmother would get the most amazing take-out food from a small kosher store in Flatbush.
When we would first arrive, there would be round crackers and chopped liver waiting for us, and there always was a bowlful of chocolate candies. Whenever I see those candies on sale at Shoprite, I have to buy them, and when I eat them, I am magically transported back to those visits.
Memories are a funny thing. Especially when you recall them in the most unexpected of places or situations. A smell, a taste, a song…
The year that Husband #1 and I started dating, his father was becoming president of the Orthodox Union. His presidency was to begin at the famed OU convention. For those not familiar with the famed OU convention, it was a gathering of all sorts of Orthodox Jews. Some were influential in business, some were influential in politics, some were influential in the rabbinate — but all were happy when Oreos became kosher.
The weekend had speeches on topics ranging from Israel to Yachad to kashrus. I had never been to one of these before, but since we were dating, and, apparently, dating seriously, my parents signed us up to go. Oh, the convention is over Thanksgiving.
The only thing I remember about that Thanksgiving was that it was the weekend that Husband #1 asked my dad for his permission to marry me. And because Husband #1 told my dad not to tell anyone, my dad “only” told my mom, who then told me, and so much for it being a surprise.
My mom had little faith in me ever getting married so she was pretty excited about the whole thing. The really funny thing about my memories of that weekend is that I remember only that story. I have no recollection of anything else. Don’t remember what I wore, if I knew anyone there, where the convention was. Not the slightest clue about anything. You would think I would at least remember the food, but nope — I guess I was just so in love that all I remember is that Husband #1 wanted to marry me. Yup, that made me a little nauseous also.
Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that bring families together even if they aren’t close. There often is eye-rolling involved when you ask friends what they are doing for turkey day. “Oh, I have to go to so and so,” or “This year, my husband is making me have so and so over.” It’s only ironic that when the pandemic forced people to be alone on Thanksgiving that there was a worldwide sigh of relief that there were to be no forced family dinners with people who don’t really like each other. Though last Thanksgiving was pretty pleasant — it was just Husband #1 and his parents. None of our monkeys were with us (for religious reasons) and we felt it was the safest place for my in-laws to be. We sat six feet apart from each other, and it was quite lovely. And no turkey was killed, but only because I barbecued. (I apologize to all of the vegetarians, vegans, pescatarians, cow lovers, etc….)
As Jews, we are given many opportunities to be thankful for what we have. Every time we say a blessing before eating something, or when we wake up in the morning, or when we go to the bathroom, we are constantly aware of what we have and that we should be grateful and thankful. So when my Oreos tell me that Thanksgiving really isn’t a holiday, I can rationalize that it is because they believe that every day is Thanksgiving. And that I shouldn’t be sad that we aren’t all sitting down together for dinner.
Of course there are other reasons why my family doesn’t get together for Thanksgiving, but contrary to what some people think, I don’t write about everything that goes on in my life. The most painful parts stay safely tucked away. But for those of you who don’t have the ideal family situation, or were alone on Thanksgiving, just know that you aren’t really alone. As I have said before, everyone has something, but no one has everything.
Here’s hoping that we always have things to be thankful for.
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck is thankful for all of you who read her column and enjoy it. It is her honor to be a part of your lives.