Thanksgiving Day will be somewhat melancholy, as it will mark the end of a tradition that has spanned my entire lifetime.
Ever since I can remember, the three major holidays were divvied up between the three daughters of Henry Forcucci of Sag Harbor. My mother, Eleanor, would have the family over for Christmas and my Aunt Adele would host Easter Sunday.
Adele was rich, and she lived at Two Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. She usually had dinner catered by a famous restaurant. Once we got all dressed up and went to a swanky restaurant where they served us a whole pig. Talk about garish. Jesus would have turned over in his grave had he not walked out of it altogether earlier that morning.
My Aunt Lucy and Uncle Tom put on the Thanksgiving extravaganza.
They lived in Brooklyn, which would have been fine had we not had a house in Sag Harbor, where I preferred to spend my time. My Uncle Tom Butler was a mountain of a man, a bit of a con, but he loved sports and loved me. He’s the one that set up a second TV on the Thanksgiving table so we could watch football and initiated the poker game after dinner, played with cold hard cash.
I hardly ever missed the family gathering, but I longed to be in Sag Harbor nonetheless. I used to take the LIRR early Friday morning, but as soon as we were old enough to drive one of my friends, usually Bobby Vacca, would come into Brooklyn and pick me up after Thanksgiving dinner and poker.
We were pretty fearless. He’d drive his old Karman Ghia, which we dubbed the Death Trap for good reason, and basically dared it to blow up before we made it back to Sag Harbor. Once we took an Ace bandage off his elbow and wrapped it around a leaky fuel line to keep it from blowing.
We were pretty fearless. He’d drive his old Karman Ghia, which we dubbed the Death Trap for good reason, and basically dared it to blow up before we made it back to Sag Harbor.
A few of the guys would come along for the ride. We’d spend the hours giving each other sports quizzes. I can still name most of the 1959 White Sox off the top of my head.
The next day we were back where we belonged, playing touch football on the Pierson lawn. Pretty girls would huddle on the sideline, watching. One would take out a cigarette she presumably stole from her mother’s pocketbook and they would all giggle mischievously.
That’s what it was all about. A sleepy town, a bunch of 16-year-olds wearing plaid scarves and collecting chestnuts, not a care in the world (other than the Death Trap).
That was a long, long time ago.
Karen comes from a small family. We will both be alone, except for each other, come Thanksgiving. Her brother is headed off to California and her sister is in Colorado. With my aunt and mom gone, my in-laws will spread out to other family members and save a trek into Brooklyn.
Believe it or not, I used to be the cute baby of the family. Now I’m the creepy uncle.
There were a couple times I couldn’t go to Brooklyn for Thanksgiving and instead stayed home and cooked for Karen’s family. I replicated every dish Lucy made: broccoli and cauliflower au gratin, whipped sweet potatoes with cinnamon, nutmeg, and of course marshmallows on top, corn bread and sausage stuffing for the turkey, and chocolate cream pie for dessert.
Karen finally confided in me she doesn’t even like turkey, and neither did her family. They didn’t want to hurt my feelings.
We’ll figure out something this year. I already reserved a movie Karen has been dying to see, and The Indy came through with a gift certificate for an all-you-can-eat feast upisland. I’m going to get there early and fill two baggies with goodies to go and come home. We can eat during the football games.
We have a baby, Coco Belle, a rescue dog who survived an 800-mile trek from North Carolina via Texas despite weighing only seven pounds.
Thanksgiving night we’ll cuddle up on the couch and put in the movie, and pull up a quilt. Coco will crawl underneath, laying across both our bodies, and moan contentedly. And a new holiday tradition will hopefully begin, with years of “Fast and Furious” movies to look forward to. I’ll wait a year before I give Coco the bad news: I’m the cute one in the family.