Mary and I were married in May 1969. We were both young and very unassuming about married life. We initially let things happen and we learned from our exposure to them rather than being proactive and making decisions that were best for us and our new life together. We were young, carefree and in love. Nothing else mattered.
Thanksgiving was our first major holiday as a married couple. Being the first to be married in my family (I had three other siblings), Mary and I received three invitations for Thanksgiving Dinner that year. The invitations were from my parents, Mary’s parents and my Aunt Ann and her family.
Not wanting to disappoint anyone we accepted all three invitations without any of the three knowing about it. If we could pull this off we knew we could do anything we wanted as newlyweds. My parents were having dinner at 12:00 PM, my Aunt Ann was having dinner at 2:00 PM. And Mary’s parents were having dinner at 6:00 PM. Because Mary’s parents lived in Stamford I told my parents we would have to leave early in order to travel to Stamford and visit them. My Mom and Dad understood and were happy that we spent time with them on our first holiday as a married couple. Instead of going directly to Stamford we stopped off at my Aunt’s house and had dinner with her as well.
Using the same excuse about traveling to Stamford we left before the dinner was over and traveled to Stamford to have our third Thanksgiving dinner for the day. It was the craziest thing that we did as newlyweds. Not wanting to disappoint anyone we consumed Thanksgiving dinner at three different places and never told our gracious hosts what we did.
That night after we returned from my in-laws, I proclaimed that we would NEVER do that again. I like making Proclamations. In fact, we would no longer spend any holiday at another person’s home. We would spend all holidays from that point on at our own home (apartment) and invite family members to join us instead. We did exactly that. We were happy to have those who could attend and held no hard feelings for those who could not attend. Mary and I wanted to spend holidays at home…our home. That was most important to us.
As time passed our list of Thanksgiving dinner guests grew. It included parents, siblings and their families, nieces and nephews and their families, neighbors and anyone else who didn’t have a place to go on Thanksgiving Day.
Although Mary came from a very small, prim and proper Irish family, she loved the crowds and loved all of the things attached to a holiday. The house was decorated and the atmosphere was one of cheer and thanksgiving. There were lots of funny stories and anecdotes that kept the day lively.
As time progressed…parents and in-laws passed away, siblings either moved away or were now entertaining their own families. Our group of invited guest dwindled from 35 to 9. The final blow was the passing of my wife Mary in 2010. The consummate planner, organizer and chef was gone. For the next 10 years I made an honest attempt (with the help of my daughters and niece Donna) to “recreate” what once was. No matter what I did or how hard I tried I could never match what Mary accomplished each holiday. She had that unique touch. I’ve tried my best but am no match for what Mary did and the way she made each person feel special as her guest. She found a way to treat everyone present in a kind and personal way. As much as I tried, I could never match her level of kindness and caring. (I did honestly try). It has not been easy for me or my family seeing that empty chair where Mary once sat.
Last Thanksgiving I was hospitalized with pneumonia. My daughter Kristen and her husband Tony intervened and hosted Thanksgiving Day dinner at their home. This week they asked if they could continue our family tradition of Thanksgiving Dinner at their home. I graciously conceded the hosting of the holiday to them from this year forward. I happily and willingly did it for the past 50 years and now realize that the time has come for me to pass this precious tradition onto a younger family member.
This will be the first time that I will have not only an empty chair at the Thanksgiving dinner table but an empty dining room as well. I trust that Mary would agree with me as to the decision that I’ve made. The most lasting part of any holiday is the memories that are created. I’ve accumulated lots of them over the past 50 years and look forward for even more seated at Kristen’s dining room table on Thanksgiving Day watching her carrying on a family tradition that would make her mother very proud to see. GBWY Mary.

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