Show of hands. Is Thanksgiving your absolute favorite holiday? That’s what I thought. Mine, too.
It’s all about the food and good friends. And, if you’re lucky, you’ve got family you can stand to be around, too. Just enough Jerry Springer to keep it lively. Not too many firearms to get ugly.
Thanksgiving occupies a kind of mystical place in my family. If you think of mystical as something mysterious and unexplainable. Of course my family fits that profile, too.
At first glimpse they seem like any other upwardly mobile suburban familial group. Let’s see, my dad was a doctor. My mother was valedictorian of her high school class and became a nurse.My stepmother has a masters degree in special ed and published her first novel at 21. I write and produce commercials. My younger brother is an attorney, my younger half-brother is an attorney. My other younger half-brother is studying to become an actuary. And my sister was a stripper. What’s that? You can’t hear me? I said, my sister was a stripper. Oh, still can’t hear me? MY SISTER WAS A STRIPPER! So why did she become an exotic dancer? Hey, it’s a mystery tome.
As it happens, Thanksgiving occasionally falls on November 24th.
That's the day my father and stepmother chose to get married a year or so after my mother died too young, many years ago. The occasion was planned so it may not seem like it’s up there on the astral plane of momentous events. But there’s more.
A few years after their marriage, my half brother Steve was born. Big freaking deal I hear you saying. Well, it was November. And the day was the 24th. HA!! Coincidence? You may not think so, but the gods of Karma and cranberry sauce weren’t done yet.
My father had an older brother, Archie, who was not only a great college baseball player, but in 1932 he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, the precursor of the U.S. Air Force. He spent a year in flight training, down in Texas, writing letters home almost daily with tales of landings, take offs, bad food, and all his buddies.
During the last week before graduation, when the year of training was almost up, he died following a midair collision with his wingman. Archie bailed out in time only to have his parachute catch the tail of his plane and take him down with the aircraft.
Going through a trunk, my stepmother found a whole bunch of old newspaper clippings about the accident when it was reported in the Chicago papers. As she read one out loud she came to the date of his death and stopped. We all looked up from whatever we were doing and she said, “Archie died on November 24th.”
Cosmic. Karmic. Whatever. Every November 24th Archie has found a way to spend the day with us. And I don't know if it means anything, but I carried on his legacy as the family ballplayer and my younger daughter received a coveted senatorial appointment to the Air Force Academy. I think he'd be amused to find out that his talents were passed down to the women.
So on November 24th we celebrate three anniversaries – a birth, a marriage, and the death of an uncle I never knew except in letters and pictures.
And sometimes, every seven years or so, it happens to be Thanksgiving too.