Friday, November 23, 2012

American Thanksgiving 2012

My grandmother must be smiling right now.

Rebecca Keller, after whom Raphaela is named, was born in British Palestine in 1922 and orphaned at the age of 11, worked all her life as the matriarch of the family to keep all of her children and grandchildren close.  Every Thanksgiving and Pessach we crowded into their Rhode Island house - 25 people and one bathroom - and ate and played and ate together.  It is her effort all those years that have kept the cousins together.

Since moving to Israel almost 16 years ago, I have never had a full and proper Thanksgiving.  All that changed yesterday, when my brother and his family and my family piled into the car, got lost looking for gasoline, and arrived at my cousin in Long Island at one am.  The holiday must be inaugurated with stress, right?

Each bedroom was full last night, with cousins and in-laws, and this day promises to bring my mother's extended side of the family for the festive traditional meal; all but three of my first cousins arrived, from as far as North Carolina and Philadelphia.  There were enough men to make a minyan (Jewish quorum) for my uncle, who lost his mother last month and had to say the Mourner's Kaddish.

But first, this morning, we watched the Macy's Day Parade in our pajamas, and I felt like a little kid again.  My brother and cousin left the house for a local and semi-competitive football game.  The nieces and nephews borrowed my iPad and played Angry Birds during the commercials.

My cousin, whose wife cooked and organized the meal for 24 adults and 17 children, had started preparing the enormous amount of food over a month ago, and told the following story:  they had lost power during Hurricane Sandy, and of all their priorities, she strung a cable from her house to her neighbor, for the sole purpose of keep that one refrigerator and its contents safe.

There was enough food for all of us, with second helpings, and probably 50 more.

There was a family football game with all the kids in the backyard. There was of course the Thanksgiving football game on television in the background.

The meal concluded with a surprise birthday cake for Raphaela, so she could remember that she not only met her nearest and dearest, but that they honored her with a celebration as well. 

And my grandmother smiled.

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