Thanksgiving Memories

Thanksgiving inevitably leads to trips down memory lane. Random memories of family and friends that you thought you’d forgotten pop up out of nowhere. This year I found myself thinking about my father, and about a young woman from India whom I met way back in the 1980s. Two somewhat unrelated memories whose only connection is Thanksgiving, and maybe fathers.

In the summer of 1987 I was introduced to a young woman whose father had brought her to America to fulfill an arranged marriage. The problem was that her father didn’t know she was a lesbian. I hope you’ll forgive me if I can’t remember her name. It was 25 years ago. My friends and I spent the summer respectfully trying to help and support her throughout her coming out process. It was emotionally exhausting for all of us. I can’t imagine what she was going through.

As Thanksgiving approached, I asked how her family would be celebrating. She said “We don’t believe in thanksgiving.” I tried to explain that Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday. I pointed out that Thanksgiving is about showing gratitude for what you have. It’s about family, friends, etc. Still, she insisted that her family did not believe in Thanksgiving. I reluctantly submitted to her opinion and we continued along with other conversations. It never occurred to me that, in my insistence that she understand my point of view, I might be behaving just as stubborn as her father, and incidentally, my father.

My father and I had a rocky relationship. I spent most of my life distancing myself from his chauvinistic attitudes. (Notice I didn’t say misogynistic.) Dad wasn’t a bad person. He just had the misfortune of living precariously between two eras. He grew up in the 1950s, when men were kings of their castles. By the time I came along things had changed drastically. Racial equality, women’s rights, and gay liberation turned his world upside down. It was difficult, but he made an effort to change with the times. Dad’s limited education and preconceptions about the world often led to awkward interactions. He couldn’t understand why people didn’t always see things from his point of view. Sound familiar?

As I get older I catch myself doing and saying things that remind me of my father, especially around the holidays. Carving the turkey always returns me to my dad’s last Thanksgiving. His health was such that he couldn’t securely grasp and control a large knife, so the honor of carving the bird was passed to me. This was a very big moment for both me and my dad. He watched silently as I showed off my skills. I was proud. He was proud. Even my stepmother was proud. It was a very surreal moment. It took a lot for him to concede the duties traditionally held by the head of household. It was a ridiculously small gesture by today’s standards, but it wasn’t about the knife or my carving skills. It was a small example of the many changes that had occurred in my father over the course of his life.

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I’m not sure what made me think of that young woman. I understand she moved back to India with her family the following winter. I never did find out how she resolved her coming out issue, but I hope she followed her heart. I hope she stayed true to herself.

I’d like to think I’ve achieved some personal growth since the last time I saw her, but I still see a bit of my dad in myself. But that’s okay. He did the best he could with what he had. He was human. He made mistakes.

Maybe, just maybe, if we all just accept that we’re only human, and give each other a little wiggle room, and a chance to make and learn from our mistakes, the world might be a better place.

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 Don’t let life pass you by. Enjoy the time with loved ones while you can.

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What is it about drugs that makes people stupid? …oh, right.

Can someone please explain to me the need to roll and smoke a blunt -or do any drug for that matter- on other people’s property? Seriously. Is this just a South Philly thing? …or does this happen everywhere?

I wasn’t brought up this way. I was raised to respect others. I was taught that people treat you the way you treat them. If you act like a thug, you can’t get angry when people treat you as such.

I often lament having to live within blocks of a crack house simply because we can’t afford to move. Don’t get me wrong. we live on a great block – mostly. But every once in a while reality comes wandering along with the sweet smelling cloud of ganja gas suspended above his head.

I’m not a prude. Mary Jane and I are old friends. It just would never occur to me to get blazed on the steps of a stranger’s house. It’s arrogant. It’s inconsiderate to your neighbors. It calls attention to yourself, and it’s just plain stupid. Why do it?

At the risk of sounding like the old head that I am, when I was young we smoked weed in private. We knew it was illegal, so we kept it on the down low. These days, young turks think nothing of whipping out a crack pipe while strolling down the street! What the hell, man? Get it together! Little kids live on our block! Do that shit in your own house!

Hanging out on our steps is usually enough to dissuade anyone from toking up on the street. But every now and again some idiot will think we don’t notice and light up. In those cases, just asking the person if (s)he can “please do that somewhere else” is usually enough to send them on their way. But occasionally, some little punk thinks his need to get high is more important than the rights of our neighbors.

The worst is when they try to hide on the steps of the small pentecostal church at the end of our street. Here’s where insolence rises to new heights! What the hell is wrong with people? Seriously! Have some f*king self respect!

I grew up in an Italian household. Wine was served with every meal. It was a normal part of life. As children, we were never made to feel left out. Our wine glasses were somewhat watered down, but we each had one. If we wanted to taste any of the “adult” beverages, all we had to do was ask. My family knew that the way to make something more desirable is to ban it, so nothing was forbidden. As a result, the mystery was taken out of alcohol. If there’s no mystery, it’s no longer special. We were free to pursue more important things.

Any child psychologist will tell you, the quickest way to get a child to do something it to tell him he’s not allowed to do it. When you remove the restrictions you take away it’s importance. I’m a firm believer in the legalization of marijuana to abate it’s importance. Decriminalization will help reduce drug related crime. Taxing it will help add much needed money to our treasury.

But when I see these kids hiding in doorways or shuffling down the street like zombies, I have to wonder if maybe I have it all wrong.