Although he has been dead now for fifty years, Thanksgiving will always been my Grandpa’s day.
More than Christmas or Easter, my grandfather seemed to relish this day most, partly I think because it was the day when the once vast extended family made its rounds from around the state, stopping in at our old house in
to celebrate, not merely the foundation of our
nation, but our arrival in this part of the planet. Clifton
That side of the family began to arrive in the United States just after the conclusion of the American Civil War, though the patriarch of the family – a soldier of fortune – apparently came here early to earn his keep in the war, and went back to take part of the Italian revolution, returning finally with the eldest of his kids to start a new family here with a new wife.
My grandfather’s father was born in
, but by the turn of the century had already started
his own family, producing four songs and two daughters, who all became icons in
my life, since I was my grandfather’s first grandchild, and was touted as such
in a regular tour among their households. Italy
My grandfather’s generation came into its own after the death of his mother just at the end of World War II. The inheritance allowed poor housing contractors to pursue their dreams. My grandfather and his brother expanded their construction business until a series of heart attacks caused both of them to slow down. My grandfather took up boat building instead. One sister started a business in Rochelle Park and then later moved it to the
where we all traveled to each summer. Jersey Shore
My grandfather bought the biggest house in he could find, a Victorian place at the top of a hill that overlooked the
and much of the neighborhood where he raised his
family when poor. Passaic River
This was my house growing up, and it became the center of attention particularly on Thanksgiving when the extended family flocked to it, pausing on their tour of other family members to help us celebrate.
This was a very typical Victorian home, but already out of date by the time my grandfather furnished it, reflecting what was considered wealthy back when he was a kid. So living there for me was like living at the end of the Victorian age, a particular confusion when my grandfather bought our first black and white TV in the 1950s, and later when my uncles upgraded to color after my grandfather’s death.
We had a classic dinning room with icons more suited to Queen Victoria than President Eisenhower, and on this holiday, we spread open the pocket doors that separated the dining room from the living room, carrying in the kitchen table so we could all sit at the same long table when it finally came to the point when we sat down for the meal.
The women – my grandmother, her daughters and the wives on her sons, did most of the work naturally, spreading out the feast – although every table was filled with some snack, nuts or candy, that allowed us, especially the kids, to eat from dawn to dusk, leaving room for the real meal and the various pies as desert.
I remember how vacant the kitchen look without the table, and how busy all the women were when I came in to help, they giving me some dish or another to carefully carry into the dinning room where I would place it on the main table.
I remember my grandfather finally seated at the end of the table, the lord of his manor, the icons of the Victorian age around him along with the paint by number paintings he so proudly displayed on the walls – his hobby when he was resting from working on the boats in the yard outside.
I remember his face beaming with pride, his eyes glowing as he looked around at the assembled faces of a massive family he was proud to be apart of. I remember his gaze lingering on me, as if I was the thing he most accomplished, the grandchild who was to begin the next generation just as he had begun his, and his father had begun his before that, carrying on something special, and grand, something he was forever thankful for.