Phyllis McGuire | View from the Village: Keeping the tradition going on Thanksgiving

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WILLIAMSTOWN — As a child growing up in the Bronx, N.Y., I had reason to think of Thanksgiving Day as Turkey Day; it was the only day in the year my mother cooked turkey.

While Mother was busy in the kitchen, I, like most children, went door to door asking, "Anything for Thanksgiving?"

I did not venture far, but stayed in the apartment building where we lived on the fifth floor, knocking on the doors of our neighbors.

As a costume, I wore my mother's clothes, the dress falling to my ankles like a gown and the shoes going clop, clop as I climbed the concrete stairs.

When dinner was almost ready, Mother would call out, "Phyllis, it's time to change clothes." We wore our Sunday best at Thanksgiving dinner.

I was 6 the year my father brought home in a basket the biggest turkey I had ever seen.

After Mother put the turkey in the refrigerator, my two sisters and I rummaged through the remaining contents of the basket, which included items Mother never bought, such as figs, dates, walnuts, almonds, chocolate-covered cherries and pfeffernuss cookies.

I did not think of my family as poor, but we had been given the basket as our name had been added to a list of people who could not afford to fill their table with a traditional holiday meal.

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We shared our gifts with my Aunt Lillian and Uncle Charlie and their two children.

Preparing for our feast, Father and Uncle Charlie moved our kitchen table into the living room, where there was space to open it to its full size.

After stuffing ourselves on a turkey dinner and the trimmings, we collapsed on the sofa and armchairs and listened to holiday programs broadcast on the radio. We did not own a television set until I was 16, and it became family tradition to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV.

Mother, bless her, served her family Thanksgiving dinner even when my sisters and I became adults living in homes of our own.

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One Thanksgiving, when we had gathered in my parents' home, I mentioned to Mother that I did not detect the aroma of a roasting turkey wafting from the kitchen. Mother hurried to the kitchen, and I followed.

"Oh, Lord," Mother gasped as she opened the oven door. "The turkey is the same as when I put it in."

My husband, Bill, discovered that the coils in the oven had failed to heat.

It was the only time in my mother's lifetime that we ate Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant. My children, as well as my sister Claire's children, most liked the make-your-own-sundae bar.

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Mother brought Thanksgiving to my home the year my daughter, Jennifer, was born Nov. 17, and we came home from the hospital a day before the holiday.

Mother had prepared everything in her home, and with the help of my father and my sister Gloria, had carted it to my home, a 45-minute drive away.

It was one of the happiest Thanksgivings I have known. Everyone treated me like a queen, not letting me lift a finger, except when my newborn needed me.

Best of all, I had given birth to a healthy baby girl who, together with our nearly 3-year-old son, Christopher Jude, made Bill's and my family complete.

In the delivery room, when my obstetrician announced, "You have a girl," I could not believe my good fortune. "Are you sure?" I asked. He laughed.

My Aunt Irene gave birth to her daughter on a Thanksgiving Day. And recounting the joyous event, she included, "A few hours after I had my baby, a nurse brought me a turkey dinner. I ate all of it."

Yes, for many of us, eating turkey on Thanksgiving Day is a tradition we keep under any circumstances.

Phyllis McGuire writes from her home in Williamstown. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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