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Sixty-Something: The Past And Future Is At Hand On Thanksgiving

T.J. Clemente

The author's Thanksgiving Day set up. (Photo: T.J. Clemente)

I love the history of the East End, particularly East Hampton. In the Hamptons, there seems to be founding family's descendants sprinkled all over the East End, often on historic farms and homes. They easily mention stories of the generations past as if they witnessed these events in past lives. They can actually point out the homes their ancestors dwelled in hundreds of years ago.

However, I am but pure third generation Italian immigrant of folks who came to America in the early 1900's on both sides of my family. I have no real knowledge of actual locations of the homes of great-great grandparents. My only connection to the past would come at weddings and funerals or holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving.

There was a time when I dreaded Thanksgiving Day. I lived in some luxury condo on the Hudson River facing Manhattan, but in New Jersey. The in-laws and my parents always firmly requested our presence in Connecticut and in Westchester for big Thanksgiving family gatherings. Many times, both gatherings numbered over 20 with family members always coming and going. Those years I would drive my family of four to both gatherings in the worst traffic, but I did it and I am glad I did now when I look back. Why? Because those Thanksgiving Days connected me to my past and to my future.

It seems every year at both Thanksgiving gatherings there was always a new baby in the family. A proud mother would show her new child to all as the father beamed. Great-grandparents and grandparents would take turns holding the baby, symbolizing the connection from the past into the future.

I too remember being a young child and on Thanksgiving, as well as Christmas Day, doing the drive to both my grandparents' homes, but luckily, they all lived close by to each other in the Bronx. Back in those days, the gatherings were bigger and the older folks broke into Italian when the gossip was beginning to get most interesting. Remember how annoying it was to be a young one and have your cheeks pinched by grandparents? Those days and those memories are now fading away daily, as most of you sixty-something people know. On Thanksgiving, they somehow float back from the deepest corners of the mind, as if they all occurred yesterday.

This year due to COVID-19 we are advised not to gather in numbers for Thanksgiving for safety reasons. Hopefully this will be a single year situation and not a new holiday tradition. Some folks no doubt will ignore this safety advisory, feeling a strong need to be with family. I wish them best of luck with that.

My time living in East Hampton was a time of living alone in a rented room with a dog. On Thanksgiving, I would be invited to homes to feast with friends, and even a few times total strangers. They were both sad, yet special Thanksgiving Days. It seemed I enjoyed their company but, in the end, I missed my family. Most of my older family folks are now long gone. Others now live far away. I remarried a decade ago and I have a devoted wife, I truly celebrate joyously Thanksgiving with her, but in a strange twist of fate, my only grandchild lives is England. They don't have our Thanksgiving tradition there. Her dad is a Brit, and they have a whole host of holidays of which I know nothing about. That is where my future lives, back in the country where the pilgrims and early settlers came from. It's just bizarre the circles in one's lifetime and how and where the future of one family will manifest itself.

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