Thursday, November 25, 2021

Giving thanks: Family, friends, fitness, travel, the arts and vaccinations

Montana's most recent "gathering of the clan" --  50 people for Cookie's birthday celebration before
Covid. Today, we give thanks for each of these  loved ones -- who came from all over the country. 



WE SANG this song with gusto, to please our grandmother Olive who taught us the melody and her revised lyrics. Her favorite holiday was Thanksgiving. Coming shortly after her Nov. 19 birthday, it was an extension of that -- a bonus time together to play music, Scrabble, pinochle and cribbage, to visit, cook and feast.
Thanksgiving aboard Celebrity Century, with niece
Amarylla, mum Ellen, sister Robbie, and Cookie.
Friends were invited -- "strays," as gran called them.  That included the Catholic priest, widowed neighbors, a favorite teacher -- divorced and alone -- later college and newspaper friends whose families lived on the other side of the country.
MY GRANDPARENTS lived next door, so we didn't have far to go -- not "over the river" or "through the wood" but "down the steps and across the grass," our revised lyric. We were lucky to grow up with grandpa
Keller's and  Cookie's first Thanksgiving
 together was on the road at a Cuban restaurant.
rents steps away.  Having two homes was a luxury and our grandparents' plant and antique-filled house was safe haven from the tumult of our own hectic digs.
But there was joy in the chaos of our home, and I miss the holiday activity -- rehearsing in the music room for our traditional after-dinner concert, the wallop of ping pong paddles and balls in the garage game room, the milkman's faithful trudge up the back steps bringing beverages, cheeses and butter right into the kitchen, the reassuring slap of the morning paper against the front door, cats jumping on our beds to awaken us, dogs bringing their favorite fetch toys, fish to feed, plants to water, phone calls from those who couldn't make it.
One of Gran's beautiful tables.
OUR PARENTS would chat and tease, making appetizers and drinks for their open house. Next door, grandpa Gus whistled "Red River Valley" while helping gran Olive stuff and tie the the bird. 
We relished that alluring smell of turkey roasting, pumpkin pies baking, her famous mincemeat cookies cooling. I was in charge of setting several tables in the dining room, living room and kitchen-- two or three small ones for the kids. Granddad carved after sharpening his knife on a slick black stone.
Then, a weekend of leisurely prepared leftovers, including gran's famous "Turkey Wiggle." Everyone raided the frig for sandwiches  -- turkey, cranberry, mayonnaise, lettuce, swiss cheese, stuffing, sweet potatoes and pear chutney. Tupperwares of green and black olives, radishes, dill pickles, cucumber chips.
IT ALL SEEMS very Norman Rockwell, or "Father Knows Best."  Of course our lives were more complex than that. There were arguments, losses,
Thanksgiving for Keller and Cookie is usually on the
road -- here at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.
disappointments, illness, sorrow. As I grew older, married and embarked on my newspaper career, there were more empty chairs at the family's home table. With grandparents gone, Thanksgiving began to include a a trip somewhere.  Siblings and friends scattered across the U.S., as our Thanksgivings split into smaller groups, not one massive gathering as in days of yore.
THIS THANKSGIVING -- spending time with my beloved Keller, we're relaxing with my Georgia sister and brother-in-law in Florida. I'm thankful for those wonderful memories -- corny, sentimental, glorified by time, knighted by my affection for those departed and still on Earth.
Cookie and Keller on Thanksgiving Day at 
Malta's Blue Lagoon. Thanksgiving tradition
now is a trip somewhere for these travel writers.
LET'S CELEBRATE friendships and family, those old and deep bonds with people we may not see or talk to except on holidays, but hold dear in our hearts and memories.  This year, let's be especially thankful for science, which has given us vaccinations to withstand the virus and hope for a brighter future.
We're thankful to be "triple Pfizered," with our boosters and certificates in hand.  We're thankful to be fit enough to exercise, walk, travel, explore the world.
I'm thankful for masking, and for others who have the courtesy to respect that. 
Thanksgiving 2021: Celebrating with David and
 Misha Minesinger, Cookie and Keller in Atlanta.
Keller and I are orphans, the senior members of our families -- his small one and my giant, scattered clan.  We miss our elders, and sometimes don't feel ready for our positions.
Our friends feel the same -- all miss their families and carry sentimental memories of Thanksgiving Day.  Although I've not been a regular church goer for decades, I always play this wonderful old Dutch hymn on the nearest piano -- whether on a ship, or a host's home:
Cookie plays piano Thanksgiving ship board. 
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known;
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing;
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

FOR ALL my blessings, I  am thankful: health, travel, music, friends, family. In my heart, we are ever together.  
This splendidly preserved Victorian house is a museum
now in Astoria, Oregon, where we visit next.

UP NEXT: Astoria, Oregon, is named for John Jacob Astor the first. He is revered, although he didn't found this charming oceanside town or even visit.  But his descendants have visited -- along with millions of tourists from all over the world. Find out why the town is so appealing as we take you there for a trolley ride, a climb up an intriguing tower for a bird's eye view of the Pacific, Victorian architecture and a world-class maritime museum and a foodie's paradise.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on the world of arts, music, travel, family, nature and more:



  1. Sweet sentiments, really hit the mark. Great lead in to the holidays.

  2. Entertaining, nostalgic piece. Reminds me of Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory." Well done.

  3. Amen. Great piece.