Over the River Again by
(303 Stories)

Prompted By Family

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Thanksgiving 1999

I am reposting the story I wrote for the prompt “Gratitude” two years ago, with updates. I decided to do it this way, rather than just move the old story to this prompt, because this will be my 100th story! Thank you for your indulgence.


Thanksgiving was always the most special holiday in my family when I was growing up. It was the one time of the year when everyone would gather, aunts and uncles and cousins, to spend the day together, eating and talking and enjoying each other. It was the only time all year that we ate in the dining room instead of the kitchen, putting all the leaves in the table so it would seat everyone. It was also the only time we used the good dishes, a delicate Wedgwood bone china that my parents had bought on a trip to England. We would have hors d’oeuvres in the living room first. Olives, marinated mushrooms, smoked oysters, and other delicacies, with brightly colored toothpicks to spear them all. I first tasted smoked oysters as a child on Thanksgiving, and I have loved them ever since.

I’m not sure if we ever talked about politics at the dinner table. It’s possible that we did, especially during the Vietnam Era, but I don’t have any recollections about it. Even if we had, there wouldn’t have been much arguing, since we all had essentially the same political views. It may have taken my father a little longer to get to the point of thinking the war was wrong, but I know he got there, and I don’t remember any trauma related to it. The only family member with a totally different political view was my uncle Ed, who was a rabid pro-Soviet communist. In his eyes, the Soviet Union could do no wrong, to the point where he wouldn’t admit that there was any anti-Semitism there. He even went to Moscow every spring for the Mayday celebrations. But for the most part, nobody engaged in argument with him. Except for once. I was in college, taking a course about China, and totally smitten with Chinese communism, which was at odds with Soviet communism at the time. He and I had an argument about which was better. But it wasn’t at the dinner table, it must have been before or after. Neither of us convinced the other, but I don’t think there were any hard feelings.

The last of the consecutive family Thanksgivings we had, where everyone in the entire extended family showed up, was in 1977, when my niece, the first baby of the next generation, was six months old. After that it seemed to be too hard to gather everyone at that time of year. Twice thereafter my parents and sisters and I gathered at my middle sister’s house in Colorado, but it didn’t include the cousins. Two decades later, in 1999, we had one more Thanksgiving gathering of everyone, because my nephew’s bar mitzvah was that weekend, so we stuffed ourselves with turkey on Thursday and danced the horah on Saturday. Later on, during the years when my two older kids were in college on the East Coast, and it didn’t make sense to fly all the way across country for four days, they went to my oldest sister’s house in Brooklyn for the Thanksgiving vacation, and my mother was there too, and the other members of the Eastern branch, and I was very thankful that they still got to have a family Thanksgiving even if I wasn’t there.

Now my extended family gets together in the summer rather than in November, because it works better for everybody’s schedules, but I do miss having everyone together for Thanksgiving. I am thankful that two of my children still come home to Sacramento for Thanksgiving. The one who doesn’t come has a good excuse, as she lives in Spain where it isn’t even a holiday. The other two have an easy one-hour hop from LA, and this year they are even on the same flight.


At any time of year, I am grateful to have the family I do, both the one in which I grew up, and the one I have formed as an adult. Each member is a loving, thoughtful, intelligent person with whom I enjoy spending time. I have been particularly thankful for the last two years that we all share the same political views. I know that many of my friends have relatives who are Trump supporters even now, and I can’t imagine how that would be, and how one could have a civil conversation with them. The midterm election two weeks ago was such a relief, especially as more and more Democratic wins trickled in, and it’s nice to be able to share the elation with all of my family members. And the fact that one family member is in the forefront of the fight against Trump makes it particularly sweet!

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Characterizations: been there


  1. John Shutkin says:

    Suzy — I love the way that your story weaves the old — your early Thanksgivings with everyone together — the less old — the “non-consecutive” family Thanksgivings — the recent — two years ago when you first wrote this story — and, literally, yesterday. And through it all runs the theme of a family being together and your thankfulness for the family that you are a part of.

    I really enjoyed the references to Uncle Ed — and, yes, every family (and Thanksgiving) does seem to have its “Uncle Ed,” though typically his politics veer rightward rather than leftward. And I loved your last paragraph (once I realized that it was what you had written yesterday) with the reference to the mid-terms. “Relief” is the perfect word. And I know I speak for many when I express great thanks to that one family member of yours who is in the forefront.

    • Suzy says:

      Thank you John. I also wrote the penultimate paragraph yesterday, while waiting to go to the airport to pick up the two LA kids. Although I realize I could have written the same thing two years ago, now that I think about it.

      You probably met Uncle Ed, he was Daisy’s husband, when you came to my wedding reception on Staten Island in 1983. He may not have been talking politics on that occasion, although if you had happened to mention the Soviet Union to him, I’m sure he would have been happy to bend your ear.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    I second John’s remarks…blending the old with the new. I agree, it is difficult to gather everyone together now. Earlier today I received a group text from a sister-in-law in KS who said she loved us all, was sad we couldn’t be together and wished we could. And so it goes. Both my kids came in, but we are going to friends’. There will be 28 people today!

    I share your exultation in the results of the midterms and thrill, by proxy when I see your family member’s name come up, doing great work. We will keep up the fight!

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks Betsy. My family had some group texts today too. I wish we had Harry Potter’s flue powder, so we could get everyone together without a lot of hassle. But at least phone contact on this holiday is better than nothing. I had a nice talk with my famous family member and said again how proud I was that we were in the same family.

  3. John Zussman says:

    I loved this account of changing Thanksgivings across the years and enjoyed the chance to read this again. This time I especially appreciated details like the table leaves and Wedgwood china. (Did you know that Charles Darwin was a Wedgwood—on his mother’s side—as was his wife Emma, his first cousin?) Congrats on your 100th story! We are thankful for your stories and undying support.

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