Well, it’s Thanksgiving again. Time to trot out the old turkey (or tofurky, in our case) dressing, cranberry sauce, and the sweet potato casserole with tiny marshmallows. We have mixed feelings, of course, about the green bean dish with French fried onion rings on top, as well as the lime jello mold with bananas suspended in the middle. But nobody can argue with apple pie. Some things are just plain good.
I love Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t always how I felt. There was one dreary Thanksgiving during the year I spent living in an efficiency apartment on East 38th Street in New York City. I was divorced and had no family whatsoever in Manhattan (or any of the neighboring boroughs, for that matter). My so-called boyfriend was living in Washington and apparently could not be bothered. (Is there anything lonelier than being attached to a selfish person)? My father and stepmother were in Pittsburgh. My mother and sisters were in California.
So I took myself down to Grand Central Station. There was a little diner there, and I got a Thanksgiving special: a slice of turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, a little cup of cranberry sauce and some kind of bread stuffing. Along with a cup of coffee, I think the whole thing came to about $1.49. (This is back in the seventies).
The thing is – I had planned on having a miserable time. I figured this was about as low as I could go. All alone. Thanksgiving. Too poor for a nice dinner. Boyfriend absent. Out there in the cold, and – Did I mention? – All alone.
But you know, I sat up there at the counter in this little diner, and it was toasty and warm in there. Everyone began talking. We introduced ourselves and wished each other happy holidays. It was like a little club. We, the solo diners at the counter, including the homeless guy at the other end, and the waitress, and the kid back in the kitchen preparing the food and washing the dishes – we were all in this together. There was comfort in that. We were slogging our way through what logically should have been a perfectly miserable night. Quietly, and without even realizing it, we were having a good time. It was a reminder that, after all, if you climb far enough up your family tree, we are all related.
I don’t remember any of their names, but I remember the feeling that I had when I got back to my tiny apartment. I was grateful.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and all your family.
© 2004, Robin Munson