A nostalgic look at past Thanksgivings

A nostalgic look at past Thanksgivings

I wasn’t even 10 miles across the state line when I saw the flashing blue and white lights drawing ever nearer in the rearview mirror.

“Nice welcome home,” I thought, wondering what I’d done wrong.

My mental jukebox immediately began playing “For What It’s Worth” by the Buffalo Springfield, a single released in 1966:

“Paranoia strikes deep,

Into your life it will creep.

It starts when you’re always afraid,

Step out of line, the men come and take you away.”

He knocked on the passenger side window, which I found odd.

My wife passed him my driver’s license, looking as calm as someone who’s stolen the math quiz and knows all the answers.

“You went left of center,” he said. “Just be more careful, OK?”

Cops are not all bad; in fact, the one who pulled me over was a decent enough guy, going so far as to letting me off with a warning.

This doesn’t always happen. Faithful readers might recall that a few years ago, I got busted for driving 69 in a 55 mph zone, an error in judgment that cost me $187, though I was given the option of returning to the county seat in a month’s time to defend myself.

I seriously considered it.

If there’s one thing I’m pretty sure of, it’s my ability to talk my way out of nearly any tight corner I’m in, knowing that eventually, I will find the right words to convince anyone of my innocence.

And I’ll be forever grateful for the talent God has granted me.

Which brings us to Thanksgiving.

It’s a perfect time for just that kind of reflection, the sort of self-examination that forces a person to find the absolute truth in the age-old phrase that insists, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Because we all slither along life’s knife edge, all too aware one false step can mean an end to everything and result in a plunge into the bottomless abyss from which no one can ever escape.

At this point, allow me to interrupt my narrative to recommend one of the best documentaries ever produced: “Man on Wire,” a remarkable 2008 film that features tightrope walker Phillipe Petit’s oh-so-against-the-law adventure that follows his obsession to cross between the World Trade Center’s twin towers, more than 100 stories above downtown Manhattan, a feat that got him arrested.

It’s an astonishing piece of work, one that never fails to induce in me a physical sense of paralyzing vertigo, the kind of sensation that makes your heart (and soul) drop into the pit of your stomach.

Ever since 9/11, of course, “Man on Wire” has taken on all the melancholic traits of a period piece, kind of like watching footage of the doomed Titanic setting sail for American shores on April 10, 1912, another trip that would end in abject horror for oh, so many.

And then you have the assassination of a U.S. president on Nov. 22, 1963, yet another example of history taking an ordinary day and turning it into something that’s seared itself into a nation’s psyche.

I was 8 years old when President Kennedy was murdered, a third-grader at St. Matthias Elementary School, a kid who was looking forward to Thanksgiving Day, less than a week away because, already in my short life, it had become my favorite holiday.

In the 60 years that have followed Dallas, I have come to regard Thanksgiving as the last chance to catch my breath, to collect my wits, to focus on the here-and-now before Christmas stomps in and swallows anything and everything that dares to stand in its way.

I often pause to remember some of the highlights of Turkey Day:

—Shopping with my mother as she laid in supplies for a family dinner, helping her whenever I could, selecting this and that, always feeling kind of special to be part of such a ritual.

—And the way, the night before, Mom would tear up two loaves of bread, season them with salt and pepper and sage, leaving the big bowl on the counter overnight, ready to make her dressing, part of a secret recipe I’ve never replicated.

—How the night before, on trips home from college, I’d join my friends at our favorite watering hole and swap stories of what it was like at the various campuses we then called home.

—The time I brought my college girlfriend home to meet the family and the way she got so, so sick, her greenish pallor reflecting the hue of the stylish dress she wore to dinner.

—The year I won the bowling league’s prize for most pins over average and how proud I felt until my fiancée informed me that because the bird was frozen, it would be of no use to us.

—Accepting the challenge to prepare my first-ever family meal and the realization that Turkey Trauma was, in fact, a reality.

—The year my fiancée and I spent the weekend in Asheville, probably North Carolina’s best-known enclave of independent thinkers, touring the Biltmore Estate and sharing a festive meal at the window table of a fine, fancy restaurant.

And now it’s Thanksgiving once again. My wife and I will be together, a blessing I always appreciate, and it’ll be another chance to add to the memories we’ve created over the years … and if a cop shows up at our door, we’ll just pull up another chair.

Mike Dewey can be reached at carolinamiked@aol.com or 6211 Cardinal Drive, New Bern, NC 28560. He invites you to find him on Facebook, where Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” is playing.

Loading next article...

End of content

No more pages to load