By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Heading down the stairs at Westfarms Mall to grab a cup of coffee at Starbucks a couple of weeks ago, I got lost in a crowd full teenagers, crying babies coddled by their parents, and children under the age of 10 jumping up and down waiting to see Santa. Surrounded by Christmas decorations and advertisements in and outside the stores, it was clear that Christmas was well on its way…
After all, the date was already Nov. 8. If we don’t start shopping now, how will we ever find time to check that list twice before Dec. 25?
All I wanted was a tall, iced, regular unsweetened iced coffee, and it seemed nearly impossible to get by the crowd of folks flocking to Williams-Sonoma or Santa Claus surrounded by a gigantic, “Frozen”-themed snow globe. I was so close, but yet so far. Sneaking my way around the Starbucks stand to get in line, a sudden cloud of confusion burst over my head as the line of java customers blended in completely with the line of families waiting to see Santa.
“Which line is my line,” I asked myself. Widening my eyes while completely in a state of coffee withdrawal, I finally picked a line hoping it was the right one. “Whew,” I said to myself as my vantage point became less muddled. Thinking about my order as I stood there, a woman suddenly emerged behind me with the same cloud of confusion: “Is this the line for Starbucks or for Santa?” she asked me.
“This is the line for Starbucks,” I said with a chuckle. “Don’t worry-I was confused too when I came too.”
After that experience, it became even more evident to me that Thanksgiving truly is the holiday that is overlooked by our society year after year. Are we so anxious to look for that perfect gift that we must flock to the mall during the first or second weekend of November with all eyes on the prize? And what comes first every year: the turkey or Santa? I love Christmas, but it seems like Santa gets the spotlight first every holiday season.
It is so easy to get lost in the crowd of consumers, the advertisements, and special “limited-time only” sales.
“This is ridiculous,” I told myself as I sat down 20 minutes later with my iced coffee, waiting to meet up with a friend. “Where is Thanksgiving? What has this holiday turned into?”
Thanksgiving is more than just a time to say “thank you.” It is also a time of reflection on the things in our lives that make us whole every day. Thanksgiving also is about the memories and traditions that have evolved among friends and families. Looking at all the decorations did not just remind me that I still have as shopping list unchecked, but it also brought to mind my memories of Thanksgiving growing up in my own family.
This time of year always reminds me of those infamous Thanksgiving dinners held at my grandmother’s house when I was a little girl. The smell of my grandmother’s homemade chicken soup boiling on the stove as I stepped inside to greet her with my parents alongside me will never leave my memory. Her soup was more than just an appetizer to hold us over before the main course was served (and that soup wasn’t the only appetizer)—it was symbolic for her natural inclination to make sure we always ate enough, no matter how full or not we actually were.
“Have some more,” she always insisted.
Even when we said, “No thank you,” she still dumped that soup at the bottom of our bowls, refusing to believe we were satisfied with just the first serving.
Spending the first 15 minutes gobbling up soup, shrimp, and dinner rolls, it’s not very long before we move onto the main course.
For an Italian family like mine, a Thanksgiving meal is more than just turkey and all the trimmings—it’s all of those additional recipes carried down from generation to generation. From homemade meatballs with marinara sauce and cavatelli to antipasto salad to pizzelles (coated with confectioner’s sugar unlike the store-bought ones), it seems as though we just can’t get enough of that comfort food our own ancestors enjoyed when they arrived here in America.
How many Italians does it take to gobble up a 10-pound turkey with sweet and mashed potatoes, stuffing, green casserole, cranberry sauce, pasta/meatballs and two kinds of pies as well as cookies? Not many. It takes years of training to eat like we do yet we’ve done it every year successfully with a lot of laughs and our stomachs so full we can’t quite get that zipper up on our pants.
But none of those dishes served on Thanksgiving would taste the way they are without eating them with the people who know you best. A cannoli is just a cannoli by itself, but if you’re eating it with the people you care about, the taste of it is just that more indescribable.
Although my grandmother is still alive today, she is not physically capable of hosting those dinners anymore. Still going strong at 87 years old, she still enjoys the holidays with her children and grandchildren even though her dementia seems to affect her on certain days more than others.
Yet, I still remember the smells created by all the food spread out on her kitchen counter, all combining into this unbelievable aroma that you can only recognize on Thanksgiving Day.
So next time you feel overwhelmed in a crowded mall this week (i.e. Black Friday), just remember some of those memories and traditions (old and new) that truly made your Thanksgiving experience real.
Lisa Capobianco is a reporter with The Observer.com.