Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving—40 years ago

I first posted the story below in 2006. This morning I was thinking, again, of that Thanksgiving, now 40 years ago. This is the song that came to mind, from one of the albums we played over and over that weekend. The memory of music is so powerful. I have seen and spoken with Kathleen and Gary a couple times since I first posted the Thanksgiving story. They are well and it is good to connect. I hope they are having a good Thanksgiving and wonder if they ever think about that one 40 years ago.

Thanksgiving 1968
After posting my wedding picture and reference to my friend, Kathleen, who loaned me her veil, Kirsty jokingly asked me if I still speak to Kathleen. The truth is I very seldom talk to Kathleen, who lives quite far from me now, but I think of her and her husband, Gary, every Thanksgiving.
Kathleen and I grew up together, nearly like family. Our mothers were best friends and our families shared many Thanksgiving dinners.

In 1968 Kathleen and Gary moved to Connecticut to go to graduate school at UConn in Stoors. I had graduated from college the previous spring and I was working for my sorority (Alpha Omicron Pi) as a traveling chapter consultant. We were all far from our Idaho homes and discovering new worlds.

I spent the week before Thanksgiving visiting the chapter at Northeastern U. in Boston. It was a sad and dispiriting week. The chapter was one of the oldest existing AOII chapters in the country with a wonderful legacy of outstanding women, but it WAS 1968 and the world was blowing up in a lot of ways, both good and bad, and sorority life was becoming a symbol of elitist, old thinking and the chapter was suffering badly. The few remaining members wished to return their charter and close the chapter with some dignity. The alumnae, for whom this chapter had meant so much in their lives, were distraught and in total opposition. I felt for all of them. And I really had nothing to offer. So, at the end of this sad week, Kathleen and Gary drove to Boston to pick me up and we went back to Connecticut for Thanksgiving.

What I remember most was how happy we were to see each other, how homesick we all were, how beautiful Connecticut was and the music. Three albums. During that long holiday weekend we played these three albums over and over and any song from any of them will instantly take me back to that Thanksgiving. Gordon Lightfoot, The Rascals and The 5th Dimension. When was the last time you heard of any of them? In 1968 they were all at the top of the charts.
We cooked our first Thanksgiving dinner away from home and family, together. Kath didn't have a pie plate, so we divided the pumpkin pie ingredients into the compartments of her muffin tin. Then we forgot that we probably should adjust the baking time for these tiny tartlets. They came out of the oven looking like black hockey pucks—inedible. We made way too much stuffing but Gary held the turkey steady while I crammed every little bit into the bird. It is a wonder it didn't explode. We invited another Idaho State grad who was also going to school at UConn, whose name may have been Allen—I have forgotten—to join us. We drank a lot of cheap wine, lighted candles and sat on the floor around the coffee table (which may have been crates) to eat our feast. We laughed a lot, called our families and bravely held back our tears at the sound of their voices.

When I left I could see, from the plane window, Kathleen and Gary standing just inside the waiting area. Gary had his arm around Kath's shoulders and she was crying. I was sitting on the plane crying just as hard.

I was so thankful for those friends. I am still thankful for that memory.


  1. That's a beautiful memory. Thanksgiving is usually about family, but it's also about making a community and bringing people together. Your story reflects the similar way we've celebrated it with "adopted family" for at least a dozen years now.

  2. Anonymous6:01 PM

    Your reminiscences really evoke the mood of the time for me. You and I were living different lives, but the same lives too in many ways.

  3. Anonymous7:51 PM

    Hi Terry: I have been a silent reader of your blog for quite some time now. It is one of my favourite reads. When I read your post today however, I felt I really had to comment. I have loved Gordon Lightfoot for many, many years. In his younger days, he would play at a coffee house in downtown Toronto. My friend and I were too young to get in, so her brother would get us fake ID's, so that we could get past the doorman. Gordon always played two shows, and we would book the later one, and then arrive very early to stand at the door, so we could hear him sing in the first show as well. Interestingly, last week Gordon Lightfoot turned seventy years old. He is a true Canadian music icon. Thanks for this lovely posting, it brought back some nice memories for me as well.

  4. This post brought tears to my eyes just like it did when you last posted it. Those are such wonderful memories.

  5. I LOVE Gordon Lightfoot. Sundown, Cotton Jenny, Canadian Railroad Trilogy. He often "plays" my sewing room. Thanks for sharing your memory. :)

  6. On this sad note, I have to tell you Ted and I went to see Gordon Lightfoot about a month ago near here, and it made us feel so old. He has gone thru some rough times in the last few years and it really showed. I wish we had skipped the concert and remembered him the way he was in our youth. You can't go home again right?

  7. I have a friend who says "Everyone moves to Florida eventually."
    So you may surprised to move to FL and find Kathleen and Gary a few miles away!
    When we went to our FL house the first time it was like coming home. So many of our "long time" friends were within a few miles.
    And I'm the one who said I don't like FL and I'll never live there!
    Never say never!

  8. Anonymous1:55 PM

    Hi, Ter

    That is a cherished memory for us, too. Alan Harmon was the name of the other guy. He was one of Gary's groomsmen at our wedding.

    This Thanksgiving we spent at Mother's home with our kids, the Herricks and Kari's fiance. It was a wonderful respite from taking care of my mother-in-law, who has been terribly sick and in a nursing home. Our Thanksgiving Day gave a much-needed warmth and the comfort that comes with family and friends.