Hold The Turkey

Growing up, Thanksgivings were spent at my grandparent’s house. Seventeen to twenty of our family members (depending on what year it was) would congregate in their small house for the day. While the adults passed the time in the kitchen and living room, my cousins, my brother and I would hang out in grandma’s bedroom. We had no games, no videos, no music, but we were never bored. We made up things to do – anything to keep ourselves entertained while we waited…

Let me pause here to say that I love my family. My aunts, uncles, and cousins are my favorite people. We’re close and I am truly thankful to have them. But I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that the highlight of the day was the moment my grandfather announced supper was ready. In a rush of euphoric glee, we’d drop what we were doing, gather around the extended table in the kitchen and watch as he placed the large, tan ceramic bowl in the center with the simple instruction. “Mangia!”

Under a thick haze of Camel cigarette smoke, and amid the threat of misdirected fork prongs, we simultaneously dug into that bowl and feasted on homemade, melt-in-your-mouth raviolis. There was no one serving us. We learned to fend for ourselves. I became a fork-wielding master at an early age. Over conversation and jokes, we inhaled in minutes what took Grandpa hours and hours to make.

That ceramic bowl was center of every holiday spent at that house. When that bowl came out, it brought the sun with it.

After every ravi was gone, we rolled ourselves from the table and in a self-induced food coma, continued our play. Two hours later, we were called back to the table for the traditional turkey dinner. Life in an Italian-American family.

I never went for the turkey. I’d sit at the children’s section of the table, still full, and pick on stuffing and potatoes, reminiscing about the beloved ravis I hadn’t yet digested. I also knew there would be desserts coming later. It was an eat-fest. It was wonderful.

When the sky darkened and the dishes were washed (no dishwasher mind you. As we got older we earned the coveted position as head washer or dryer), the children retired to the living room to watch The Wizard of Oz, while the adults stayed in the kitchen playing cards for money.

Every Thanksgiving without fail, this is what we did, until we lost our grandparents. I was twenty-five when my grandmother died. When my grandfather passed four years later, I stood at his casket knowing that life would never be the same. Thanksgiving would never be the same.

I was right.

While I stood at his casket saying my silent so long, one of my cousins stood next to me and she asked the question that was on all of our minds that somber day. “Who do you think will get the ravioli bowl?”

Of course, it went to one of his children.

I’m almost fifty now and I sit at a different Thanksgiving table with my husband and our children. Tomorrow, as I do every year, I’ll give thanks for the childhood I had, the family I love, my grandparents, who I miss terribly and for the raviolis I enjoyed for almost three decades. I have a replica of Grandpa’s ravioli bowl, sent to me a few years ago by an aunt who found it at a flea market down south. When I opened the box and saw it, I was overwhelmed with sadness and gratitude. I treasure the countless memories of my youth spent around this bowl. Laughter, tears, always love, and raviolis.


So, no turkey for me this year. I’ll be feasting on memories of times gone by.

I wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving.

Much Ado About Love

Last month, Lit Ladies (book club no.1) decided to take a trip into NYC to see Much Ado About Nothing, an off, off (take the A train downtown), off broadway play.

I am only slightly familiar with Shakespeare’s work, thanks to Mel Gibson’s movie, Hamlet, back when Mel Gibson was hot. And I recall, vaguely, reading King Lear in high school. That’s pretty much the extent of my Shakespeare knowledge.

Much Ado About Nothing was a comedy, I was told, which was perfect. I needed a good laugh.

For the purposes of keeping this reasonably short, I’ll bypass the pre-play festivities, which include the debacle of trying to get nine naive, suburban girls into the subway. A story for another day (and a funny one, too. I promise).

As we settled into the theatre, the lights dimmed, the audience hushed, and the actors walked onto the stage dressed in contemporary clothing. My earlier ambivalence about seeing the play diminished, and my hopes lifted.

Until one actor opened his mouth and spoke ye olde English.

During the initial dialogue, all nine of us glanced back and forth to each other, to see if anyone understood. Sure enough, no one did. When the rest of the audience laughed, we shrugged. How could we be so lost? How did everyone else understand what was going on?

I needed subtitles. Or an interpretor. Or a nap. (We had just enjoyed dinner down the street and of course, this book club doesn’t call themselves Lit Ladies because they like to eat).

I closed my eyes briefly, blaming the vodka, and not the fact that my brain hurt trying to understand what these people were saying. I was grateful to have paid only $22. for my ticket (Groupon). Small gifts.

We were well into the second half when I finally caught on to the story. It must be similar to watching an Opera sung in Italian; how eventually you get the gist of a story by facial expressions and reactions. From what I could surmise, MAAN was about the courtship of two couples, one of whom is tricked into confessing their love for each other.  As I laughed with the rest of the audience, I felt really good to be involved in something that was written 500 years before I was born.

Overall, Lit Ladies agreed, though slow to start (for us), it was not bad.

I didn’t give William much thought after that night, until a few days later.

I was watching an old rerun of Mad About You and during a tender scene, Jamie happened to quote Juliet, from Romeo and Juliet. Maybe it was the way she said it, or the circumstance under which it was whispered (Paul was having an operation), but I understood, with such clarity, every word. It stayed with me for days.

It was about love.  This was the quote: 

“When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Well, I started looking for other Shakespeare quotes and found this:

Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt thou the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
(Hamlet, 2.2)

And this:

When Love speaks, the voice of all the gods
Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.
(Love’s Labour’s Lost, 4.3)

There are so many stirring quotes written by this man (that I actually understand), but I won’t list them here. Suffice it to say, I spent an afternoon falling in love with his words. If you haven’t had the pleasure,  take a gander at Romeo and Juliet. It’s a wonderfully romantic, lyrical experience.

Shakespeare may speak in circles, and I may not understand most of what he wrote, but the man knew love.