Chennai Journal
Sunday, November 26, 2006
In recent years, Thanksgiving has been a holiday I've been content to pretty much ignore. In the States, it's a long holiday weekend and good for travel or just catching up, and following on Rosh Hashanah only a few weeks earlier, I'm not usually hungry for another turkey. But this year I felt pretty blue about being here, probably because I was alone. It was just another work day, and on Friday morning in India, when the phone was passed around at Marty's cousins as people were finishing up dessert (three kinds of pumpkin pie and whiskey cake to boot!!), I felt really homesick. Dad, of course, had no idea what day it was---but even he seemed sad. For a couple of days before Thanksgiving, he announced at the dinner table that he was "less than 100%" because "I lost my mate." He rarely speaks of my mother, and sometimes thinks it's been 20 years since she died (it's just 3 years next month), so I wonder if his internal clock wasn't also registering the holiday.

Growing up, Thanksgiving was really a big deal in our family. We always got together with my mother's sister and her family, and there were certain traditions that my cousins and I still talk about. By popular acclaim, my aunt always made the gravy and my cousins and I got to sample the turkey in advance of the meal---but only the wings (and a bit of stuffing if no one was looking). One year, the cousin closest to me in age (now deceased) and I invented a radio show using my dad's portable tape recorder (in the early 1960s, a very new and state-of-the art device.) Call letters for radio stations in the eastern U.S. start with the letter W---so we called it WHAM radio, and used a nearby block of wood to make the "wham" sound on the table that accompanied the call letters. How many years later it is, and I can still recall the excitement we felt hearing our voices played back on the tape recorder. Not to mention the taste of Aunt Leora's gravy!

Later this week I'm heading up to Darjeeling, in the far northeast, for a long weekend. It's one of the famous British "hill stations" as well as the home of Darjeeling tea, and the views of the Himalayas are supposed to be fantastic---you are even supposed to be able to see Mt. Everest on a clear day. I'll post when I'm back, and hope the weather cooperates this time.

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