By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur living the dream in the Pacific Northwest.
Many of us have a favorite time of year. For our family, it is around Thanksgiving. Here is why: We all try and see our close family frequently.
Each time we have the usual conveersations. What is going on in your life? Oh, you got an A on your advanced placement course. Or you had the car serviced.
These are the mundane daily living things we all are familiar with. Around our family these days, it is anything but mundane.
For example: “We got the results back from our DNA analysis. The report said we are 50% human, 35% native American prairie animal and 15% not of this earth.”
Or: “We’re all going out on Friday to select our Christmas tree. We’re going to a tree farm where we can select our tree and cut it down ourselves.” (And yes, we have a fully equipped ambulance standing by with a fully trained emergency room staff. And yes we remember last year when half your family required emergency assistance – everything from cuts requiring stitches to Irish Potato Famine.)
Then there was Thanksgiving with Grandpa (my grandfather, not myself). Grandpa still had his 1949 Plymouth, three speed stick shift – with the cavernous rear seat – that all of us could stand up in.
Grandpa also had lost part of his left leg (thankfully it was the one operating the clutch, not the gas or brake pedals). But he continued to drive that car – with all of us grandchildren in the back seat without seat belts or any kind of restraining devices. To say Grandpa was a “colorful” character is an understatement. He said every other driver was either a “maniac” or a “slowpoke.”
And even though several impressionable young people rode with him, one quickly got used to a string of curses, some of them impugning the ancestry of the driver. Things like “You dumb *&#?”%*” or “Where did you get your license, Sears Roebuck?”
Then there was the food. Gramma (and now in the current era – my wife – the “current” Grandma) spent two or more days preparing the meal. In our house, we also like to get the Christmas tree up and fully decorated prior to the Thanksgiving meal. Really dresses up the dining/living rooms.
Granma was born in Europe – and came here in the early 20th century alone on a ship – as a pre-teen. Her family sent her here to join up with other relatives.
She learned to cook at the side of her Hungarian grandma. Boy could she bake. She made Hungarian Apple Strudel. The secret was in the wafer thin crust. It took several days to get that crust just so. So if you came into her house during those days, you would find this crust spread out on every horizontal surface through the house. Every table, arm of the sofas, top of the refrigerator, washing machine, etc. I guess it had to “cure.”
But wow, that crust along with the mysterious ingredients (she never did tell any of her heirs exactly what was in the filling) was fabulous. No matter how much strudel we were able to bring home, it disappeared within 24 hours.
Other things great about this time of year: Before the current pandemic, there was Black Friday. So if you didn’t mind getting up at 4:00 am and standing in line in the cold for two hours at your favorite big box store, you could (the first 100 customers only) buy a 48” TV for $50.
Of course, the TV was made in Bulgaria – and had a number of toxic radioactive components. So, although you got a “great bargain” on the TV, the hospitalization, radiation and chemotherapy cost over $75,000. Some bargain.
Last, we have the Christmas buying splurge. Consumer spending at Christmas is now over $1 trillion. Besides the Black Friday crush (when fistfights are not unheard of between competing shoppers), our family is famous for our choice of gifts.
First, I really loved the set of a dozen pairs of argyle socks. Other than the fact I am allergic to them, and I don’t really wear psychedelic colors, they are fine. And I know my wife will appreciate a matched set of pot holders. Something no household could survive without.
All of our relatives appreciate cold hard cash. There is nothing that says Christmas like a cool crisp $100 bill (or many more than one for all of our immediate family).
Finally, another family tradition. Standing in those long “return lines” after New Years. The only salvation is I can read a short novel on my smart phone as I wait in line.