Thursday, November 23, 2017

Grazie Mille

Thanksgiving ranks among my favorite U.S. holidays. It's the one around which the very best family gathering memories of youth are centered, and for which some of the most fun solo or con amigos experiences resonate.

I am thankful for so many people, places, things and ideas spanning a lifetime to recent weeks and months. It's been an extraordinary year of personal change, mostly positive, and of renewed optimism for the future.

Lots of travel, too, thanks to good timing and the generosity of clients who engage the P.R. team of partners with whom I'm privileged to collaborate.

Through visits with friends and family, some of the top Thanksgiving events spanning 1973 to present (my 44 turkey days) are fresh on the brain, so capturing a few here for posterity and shout-outs to those with whom a shared experience took place.

Love, love, love being thankful.

1978 -- Kindergarten Pilgrim hat, buckle and turkey (cut from the outline of my hand) made of construction paper, and earliest recollection of "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" and consciously comparing female friends my age to the characters on the screen (yes, Lucy and the football). Can't get enough of that Vince Guaraldi soundtrack!

1980 -- Flying a Styrofoam glider and a "pheasant kite" (sort of a sling-shot and paper toy bird) at the big park in Oklahoma City with my sister, Uncle Scott, Grandpa Louis and dad. The first of many cloudless and wonderfully warm Southwestern Thanksgiving Days.

1982 -- The holiday was the eve of my sister's tonsillectomy, teeing up a father-son cooking experience featuring Campbell's alphabet soup and turkey leftovers (the tradition continues!)

1984 -- Thanksgiving in "Big D" Dallas, Texas, during which I learned about Cole Porter and Big Band music, saw "The Karate Kid" on the silver screen and we ate the best damned turkey chili

1985 -- Turkey and ping-pong during our first and only holiday trek to my maternal family's home town, Enid, Okla.

1986 to 1990 -- Trivial Pursuit, home movies and pie

1991 -- Screening "Point Break" then feasting with the Nord Family at Lake Minnetonka, which froze solid in the moonlight as we watched from their cozy living room. This turned into a house-sitting adventure and experiencing my first white-out blizzard later in the weekend

1993 -- Working a double-shift at KMSU-FM in Mankato, Minn., learning about nearby musical hero Prince in detail (the station had a complete collection of his tunes) and discovering radio God of KCRW-FM Joe Frank via his astounding holiday special "Pilgrim" (available via free download through this month)

1994 -- Saint Louis holiday with college first-love, Jenny, with a sumptuous meal hosted by Fran and John at their historic home in suburban University City, Mo.

1995 -- Celebrating my sister's 21st birthday in St. Louis before a day-long road trip to Oklahoma City for one of the last Thanksgivings with most of the elder family members. We enjoyed a cousin-hosted feast before the full family (about 12 of us) drove caravan-style to see "The American President" together

1997 -- My first international flight from Atlanta to Barcelona, eventually enjoying a "borrowed" bottle of red wine on the Mediterranean sands before translating the Burger King menu for a bunch of female U.S. Navy sailors on shore leave at Las Ramblas

2001 -- Buying a $30 round-trip flight to Washington, D.C. (via post-9/11 pricing), to meet longtime friend Joanne on The Mall after a wonderful solo day in several free museums

2003 -- Surprising a special woman in Milwaukee to launch a 12-year romantic adventure and partnership (now evolved into a tremendous 14-year friendship); not long after the meal, she dumped her Thanksgiving date (which I crashed) so we could share our first official date and trek to The Windy City for the third time that year

2004 -- Window shopping, ice skating and absorbing all the sites of Christmastime Chicago for the second consecutive Black Friday (see 2003)

2015 -- Connecticut holiday with newlyweds Jason and Dominick hosted by Faith and Philip. Still looking for a family game rematch (victory was robbed!)

2016 -- Fessler feast in suburban Birmingham with longtime friends, their son and mother, a source of inspiration, strength and perseverance

2017 -- Early pancake breakfast, turkey via Whole Foods Market, and a quiet afternoon packing for a weekend road trip. Destination: Manhattan/Long Island/Middletown, N.J. Enjoyed a record number of calls and messages from friends from coast-to-coast and even a Thanksgiving fan over yonder in Moscow!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo by Nicholas Wolaver

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