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Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away and I haven’t a clue where I’ll be — or if I am going anywhere. Gratefully,  it’s not for the lack of an invitation — I have two — but the timing may be off. 

My Crescent City, California family recently moved to Seattle, Washington. I decided to rent  a condominium through December— but I may go earlier. The idea of staying with my family is off the table. Two adults, Nova, Luca , two big dogs and a cat for a month?  No thanks! 

 But plans can change in a New York minute especially with COVID still lurking around every corner. It may be prudent to pencil in my plans and have another choice and an eraser handy. 

My San Francisco family is having a house built in Texas. With the supply chain disruption, it may or may not be ready in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with them.

I may simply go  to a community center and volunteer to serve a holiday dinner to the poor and underserved in our community. Invitations are a scarce commodity  for  the disenfranchised. 

That said,  it’s instances like these that my mind goes drifting back to  a simpler time. 

We live in a global world, where families are on the move. The days when everyone lived on the same block or town is almost extinct.  (I am envious of those who still do.)  Nowadays, families may be separated by a continent, or live in a distant state.

Back then, our boisterous  family traditionally gathered at my grandparents’ home  for Thanksgiving. However, the “feast” was anything but Rockwell perfection. Grandma served up antipasto, lasagna, wine—lots of wine. (It may account for the noise!)   The turkey with trimmings , however, was incidental. Apple and pumpkin pie was too Americano; instead, it was cannolis served with black coffee and Sambuca. 

When Mom and Dad inherited Thanksgiving,  there was a minor change to the menu. Mom,  ever health conscious,  deemed that antipasto was out (too much salt) and  salad was in. Funny, the wine was still liberally poured. Mom probably  felt the grapes in the wine were healthy. 

My five siblings and I had a blast carousing with our cousins. We played tag and Ringolevio in the woods behind our house.  (This was the pre-bridge Staten Island, while it was still rural. ) The adults sat around the remnants of our feast  and argued politics. Yup, it was going on back then.

When my turn came, our Thanksgiving had morphed into pure Americano. My siblings and I did Norman Rockwell proud. We did a Thanksgiving potluck, so no one spent hours laboring over the stove. Each brought a traditional Thanksgiving dish minus the pasta and cannolis. The wine, however, still remained.

Over the years, our  families grew, our parents joined all the company of heaven.  There were in-laws and some out-laws to consider. It became  increasingly difficult  to gather together, so the holiday table shrunk.

Then came the Thanksgiving of bereavement 20 years ago. My husband George died a few days before Thanksgiving. Save for my sons’ stricken faces, my memory is dim recalling that raw time.

Nowadays, our families have  expanded to include grandchildren—some of whom settled in other parts of the country. The debate of who’s going where is discussed ad nauseam in September. 

Who can forget the COVID Thanksgiving of last year ?  Some of us were gathering on Zoom, others in person within their pod. Some were alone and isolated. 

At this time of the year, many  folks may yearn for yesteryear.  I am reminded of a song titled “Time Passages”  by Al Stewart. The following lyrics resonate with me and  express the melancholy many feel. 

“It was late in December, the sky turned to snow,
All round the day was going down slow.
Night like a river beginning to flow
I felt the beat of my mind go drifting into time passages
Years go failing in the fading light — Time passages
Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight.
Well I’m not the kind to live in the past
The years run too short and the days too fast
The things you lean on are things that don’t last
Well its just now and then my line gets cast into these — Time passages
There’s something back there that I left behind — Oh, time passages
Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight.”

Except, as the late Thomas Wolf wrote, “We Can’t go Home Again.”  We, can, however,  go home in our cherished memories.

Life is fluid,  menus and gatherings  change. But one thing is still constant: Whether we serve  cannoli or apple pie, antipasto, or salad,   the menu should include huge portions of gratefulness. 

Gratefulness is not conditional or circumstantial. We are called to give thanks in all circumstances—yup, all. Gratefulness can transform ordinary meals  into a Thanksgiving feast even if we are serving canned soup. 

To my faithful  readers:  Blessings and gratefulness be yours this Thanksgiving and always. 

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Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in 'retirement' — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.