More thanksgiving memories

A few years ago I jotted down a few memories, too You can read them here.

In the wake of yet another Thanksgiving, I’ll pause to remember Thanksgiving celebrations from my past. My most vivid ones are from my high school years.

Those were high school marching band days, and we played our inter-league rival Interboro High School on Thanksgiving day. Kick off was typically at 10 am on a cold fall day in suburban Philadelphia in a packed stadium. It was the last game of the season, so it was a big deal whether we were playing home or away.

By the time I got home, it was two or three in the afternoon. We had time to play some football in the street in the afternoon. My mom usually prepared a traditional thanksgiving meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn or green beans, dinner rolls, and pumpkin pie. It was dark when we sat down to eat, so we must not have sat down for supper until about 5 or 6 in the evening.

I rarely remember family coming to be with us or us going to visit family. In retrospect, I’m puzzled by this, since both of my grandmothers and other family lived within an hours drive of our house. But in my recollection, we celebrated the holiday as an immediate family. I am pretty sure my dad only got Thursday off, so it was just a one day event. We three kids took turns washing dishes; God help you if thanksgiving was your turn!

I can’t remember every going shopping on Friday. If Black Friday was a thing, it wasn’t a thing for my family. I do remember that on Friday, my mom would set out the turkey carcass out in the center of the table, and we would pick leftover meat for our meal. After that, my mom would use whatever was left for turkey soup over the weekend. I remember that soup fondly for she would often throw in leftover hot dogs and buns.

Thanksgiving was different back then. Now we deal with travel plans, sweet potato casserole (we never had sweet potatoes!), gluten-free pie crust, macaroni and cheese, and having the right beer and wine on hand. I still like to eat, so it’s all good!

My top ten “Dad” memories

After the recent death of my 95 year old father, I stopped to list my top ten memories of him. Most of them are from many years ago, but they are all vivid in my mind.

10 – My Dad usually got paid on Fridays, which for him meant going to the bank to cash his check. I remember watching him divide up that cash into various envelopes for church, food, mortgage, clothes, etc. He was raised and lived most of his life in a cash world without credit (or credit card debt). When I read about money-management systems that emulate cash envelopes, I always think about Dad. He was either ahead of his time, or there truly was nothing new under the sun.

9 – One summer, instead of going somewhere for vacation, Dad put an above ground pool in our backyard. Since much of our yard was on a giant hill – great for sledding in the winter, tough to mow in the summer – it was a major project to level out a 15 foot diameter level circle for the pool. But we loved it! You can do a lot of laps in a 15 foot pool without surfacing to take a breath. You can do a lot of snorkling too. I believe that was one of our best summer vacations!

8 – My Dad was an electrical engineer in the 50’s through the 70’s, which meant he went to work in a white short-sleeved shirt and tie. My mom would send his work shirts out to be washed, bleached, starched and pressed at the local cleaners. When they picked them up and brought them home, each was folded around a rectangular piece of cardboard. As kids, we loved those pieces of cardboard for drawing and coloring.

7 – In the summer, Dad would often sit on the back steps and smoke a cigar. Usually a Phillies blunt. Sometimes I would sit out there with him and just talk about whatever, throw a ball for the dog, or just watch the sunset yield to the night. Just before the ash fell, he would tap it into his palm and toss it out into the grass. It was all about the timing.

6 – One summer, when I was in elementary school, Dad went to a salvage yard and bought a whole bunch of wooden planks. After we pulled all the old nails out of those planks, he helped me and my neighborhood friends build a “fort” at the bottom of the hill in our backyard. It certainly wasn’t fancy, but it did have a window and door, shingles on the roof, a dark green coat of paint, and a door. My friends and I spent a lot of time playing in that fort.

5 – My Dad had played some high school baseball and had a glove from the 1930’s that was much different from the baseball gloves of the 1960’s and beyond. The baseball gloves of my generation were huge baskets, but his was little bigger than his hand. His glove meant you had to use two hands to catch. The gloves of my generation let you use one hand to grab the nastiest grounders. Dad spent a lot of time teaching me to throw and catch, a skill that kept me busy with friends for many years.

4 – My Dad commuted to work in Camden, NJ and Philadelphia, so he was usually the first one up in the morning. His go to breakfast was Wheaties. Every morning, he would be up about 5:30 am he would be up eating a bowl of Wheaties with milk before he got dressed and caught the train to work. I remember getting up early just so I could sit with him and have a bowl of cereal and enjoy his company before he went off to to work and I walked to school.

3- Speaking of vegetables, Dad always had an all-star garden. He grew tomatoes, peas, green beans, peas, beets, carrots, kohlrabi and radishes. In front of our house, though, he planted and cared for beautiful flower gardens. From tulip and hyacinth bulbs in the spring to gorgeous azaleas and mums, the front our house was a gallery of color.

2 – My Mom was a pretty good piano player, and she would sometimes play classic sing along tunes that my Dad would harmonize to. The song I especially remember is “Moonlight Bay.” Sitting in church next to Dad, we learned to harmonize to many church hymns.

1 – When my brother and sister were old enough, Mom went to work on weekends. She was a nurse and picked up weekend shifts at the local hospital. My Dad had to make supper and feed us. His go to meal was Hamburger Helper, or sometimes, just browned hamburger and brown gravy. We ate this along with bounty from his garden, which usually included green beans, tomatoes, radishes, kohlrabi, carrots and in the early spring, lettuce. He also made some instant mashed potatoes for the gravy. We grew up thinking he was a pretty good cook!

There you go – my memories of Dad, each of which brings a smile to my face!

Thanksgiving memories

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Photo by Alison Marras on Unsplash

I’m surprised that I really don’t have a lot of Thanksgiving memories. I really like the holiday, especially preparing and consuming the food. I had to really work to come up with memorable moments from the past.

In high school, the last football game of the season was played on Thanksgiving morning, also marking the end of marching band season. We always played a non-league game against Interboro, a tough opponent from a few towns away. After graduating, that was the game you attended to catch up with all your friends who were home for break.

The only time in my life I remember going out for supper on Thanksgiving was when we went to visit my wife’s Aunt Dot who lived in King of Prussia, just outside of Philadelphia. I’m pretty sure we drove down from Connecticut that year and met my in-laws there. My daughter Katie found it hysterical that her name was “dot.” We went to the mall, the largest in the area at that time, the next day to people watch more than shop.

My Thanksgivings while I was attending seminary were spent at my in-laws home in Columbus, IN. The first time I had just finished Greek and went with my classmate, dorm-mate and future brother-in-law Jeff, who, if I remember correctly, had a pretty nice looking sister who was in her last year at Indiana University. A year later I got to return, now dating his sister but not yet engaged. I think that is when I wrote my first poem for her. (I am sure she has it somewhere.) I don’t remember going there when I was in my final year, but I’m sure we did. Lisa would have been about six months pregnant with Adam that year.

Last year was supposed to be Thanksgiving at our house, but we had a change of plans. With Isaac (grandchild #3) only six weeks old, we decided to take a drive to Dallas to spend thanksgiving with him and his family. The year before I had decided to have our Thanksgiving worship the Sunday before, freeing up the week for travel, and it paid off. After worship on Sunday, we hit the road, spent the night in Pensacola, and arrived in Dallas on Monday night. Three solid days in Dallas, got to hear my son preach and did lots of grandparent stuff.

I do remember that Thanksgiving worship was on Thanksgiving Day when we were in Urbandale, Iowa. Ugh. Never did that before. It was always the night before in Ridley Park, Connecticut and Florida. But I wasn’t the boss, so it was what it was.

I remember all my trumpet descants for the Thanksgiving hymns, too. I may not be playing them, but I sing ’em on the last verse. Still got that tenor range.

OK, I guess I did have a few memories. One of these days, I’ll look at my journals — I’ve got decades of them. That ought to stimulate my memory.

When traditions begin to vanish

I went to the viewing of a friend’s father last night at a local funeral home. When I arrived, the staff showed me into the room for the visitation, a room that was virtually empty. Just a son and a granddaughter. I wasn’t early. In fact, I deliberately came a little bit later.

jerk 2As I sat and visited with them, a few others arrived and I suddenly found myself immersed in Jamaican culture. The conversation was filled with references to jerk seasoning, where to get the best jerk seasoning, plantains, rum, reggae music, Rasta, and cities and towns in Jamaica. As I listened and learned, it seemed like there was a running competition among them about who was still the most “Jamaican” among those who had lived in New York and now in Palm Coast for twenty or thirty years or more. Continue reading

Things I learned from my dad

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Dad and I – August 7, 2017

Having spent more time with Dad these past few years has given me time to talk about the past with him, look at pictures of family, and remember the things my he taught me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve answered the question, “How did you learn to do that?” with “My Dad taught me.”

Dad taught me

  • How to throw, catch and hit a baseball.
  • How to keep score at a baseball game. (We went to a game about once a year at Connie Mack stadium in Philadelphia.)
  • How to drive.
  • How to drive a car with manual transmission. (My first few cars had a stick.)
  • How to tune up a car (When cars had distributors, points and carburetors.)
  • How to do a brake job. (Again, when cars were a bit simpler to maintain yourself.)
  • How to plant, weed and harvest a garden.
  • How to play pinochle. And double-deck pinochle.
  • How to sing and harmonize. (My mom would play piano and we would sing in harmony together. We sang a lot of parts in church, too.)
  • How to hang dry wall and mud it.
  • How to prep and paint walls and woodwork.
  • How to wire basic electrical circuits. (Dad was an electrical engineer by trade.)
  • How to solder.
  • How to make Hamburger Helper. (When we got older and my mom went back to work as a nurse, she would work weekend shifts when my dad was home. We had Hamburger Helper for supper about 90% of the time on Saturdays and Sundays.)
  • How to be there for all your kids’ events. (I can’t remember a concert or other event he didn’t attend.)
  • How to build a fort. (When I was about 9, he bought a whole pile of scrap wood and let me and my friends build a “fort” at the bottom of the back yard.)
  • How to eat Wheaties. (For most of my childhood, dad ate a bowl of Wheaties with milk for breakfast before he left for work.)
  • How to eat sardines. (He always spread them on white bread.)
  • Hot to tie a tie.
  • How to be faithful (to God, to wife and to family.)

That’s a pretty decent start. I’ll be back to add more from time to time.

Thanks, Dad!

It’s over…for now

The party is over, kind of. My two oldest children have gone back to school and our home is suddenly a little emptier and much quieter. The last few days have been a blast with the five of us home. Twice as much conversation, food, games, mess, and laughter.

I know that everyone will be back again in just a few weeks, for Christmas, but when you all don’t get together too often, you take in and enjoy every minute you can.
Here are my favorite memories of this Thanksgiving:

  • Adam leading worship with me on Sunday and Wednesday.
  • Adam’s turkey made of olives and pickles, Katie’s pumpkin bread and green bean casserole, Lisa’s pumpkin pie, and Olivia’s mashed potatoes.Little ones hanging on the altar rail trying to see Pastor Bill.
  • Bike rides on two beautiful days.
  • Two posters filled with sticky “thank-you” notes.
  • The image of Jesus giving thanks right along side us.

As we head full steam ahead into Advent, these memories will quickly fade, so I’m glad I jotted them down here to remember.