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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Okay the title to this post is a little premature, but seeing that most people (like I) will be busy tomorrow with family, meal preparation and actually enjoying the food, I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving a day early.

To sum up the theme this week, I wanted to post my favorite Thanksgiving memory. Obviously having my son in my life is my favorite, because I had another special person to share it with, but I wanted to resort to a childhood memory. I find it a bit humbling because I wonder what my son's favorite memory of Thanksgiving will be when he is all grown up.

When I was little it was tradition that the family would head up from our home in North Carolina to Cleveland, Ohio to see my Nagypapa and Nagymama for Thanksgiving. It was at least a 12 hour trip and with two kids in tow, I am sure it was tons of fun for my parents (not). I remember early in the car ride before we would traditionally stop in Breezewood, Pennsylvania, that I found a toy hidden underneith my Dad's seat, which I sat behind. I was so elated because this was a new toy! My sister was wondering where her toy was too but soon found hers, and we quickly unwrapped the contents from the box and played with it most of the way there. I had to be at least four, since my sister was six years older and still wanted to play with toys.

When we arrived we were greeted by my Nagypapa and Nagymama at the front door with lots of hugs and kisses. This is a memory that still brings tears to my eyes as I wish I could still get those greetings from them. I remember the smell of my Nagymama's shalamar perfume and cigarettes and my Nagypapa's smell of well...body odor and smell from his work (perhaps it was a factory) that he worked part time at. As my parents unloaded the car and set up shop for the next few days, my sister and I would catch up with my Nagypapa and Nagymama about all the exciting things that were happening in our lives. The listened patiently with loving eyes. How I miss those loving faces...

On Thanksgiving I know my Nagypapa would wake up at the crack of dawn like he did every morning of his life. I remember waking up in my Dad's old childhood bedroom hearing him creep down the stairs coughing his Nagypapa cough. Soon enough I would awake and trample down the stairs with my kiddo pajamas still on and join my parents, Nagypapa and Nagymama around the kitchen table. They had a retro style kitchen table in their small little pink tiled kitchen. I remember that they had metal lining the outside of the table and I used to love running my fingernails through it. Why I remember that, I don't know. After breakfast my Nagymama and Mom would work diligently in the kitchen preparing the Thanksgiving Feast while the rest of the family would watch Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on the tv. I do remember going back to the kitchen from time to time to pester my Mom (really I was attached so I just wanted to see her) and remember seeing turkey when it was all done and out of the hot oven. The sheer size of the bubbling hot turkey always looked big to me at that age because in the eyes of a four years old, they were ginormous!

Soon enough the cousins would arrive along with my Aunt and Uncle. It was so much fun getting together with them as a few of my cousins were only a few years older then me. We would play games, get teased by Nagypapa (or yelled at depending what we were doing), and play hangman on the chalkboard upstairs. Oh how I miss that chalkboard! As children that chalkboard was the coolest thing in my Nagypapa and Nagymama's house. I mean who do you know has a chalk board outside of their bedrooms? I am curious now to think if Nagypapa or Nagymama would write notes to each other while their grandchildren were away.

Around 1 or 2 (depending on if the food was ready), the entire family would sit down for a Thanksgiving dinner meal. I remember one cousin putting black olives on each of her fingers and then bite them off one by one. I wished like anything that I liked olives too so I could do just that, but I couldn't bring myself to liking them. I still hate black olives, but if my taste buds ever changed their mind one day, then I would totally eat olives from each of my fingers. After dinner was over we would feast on tons of desserts. My Mom knew that I didn't like pies or most cakes, so she usually baked chocolate chip cookies for me beforehand. What a great Mom. I loved the fact she would think of me that way. It always made me feel special.

After dinner was over and we were all fat from eating way too much, the cousins and I would run off again while Nagypapa took a snooze in his chair and my Nagymama, Dad, Mom, Aunt and Uncle caught up sitting on my Dad's Godmothers couch. My Dad's Godmother was named Ethel Ergh, who lived in Lorain OH- about 2 hrs west of Cleveland. The Ergh's (Geirgy & Ethel) were great friends of my grandparents and my great grandparents. The senior Ergh has his original barbershop on Buckeye Rd now part of the museum collection at the Western Reserve Historical Society in University Circle, Cleveland.

Getting back to my Thanksgiving memory, before long the cousins were called by my Aunt and Uncle to go home and the holiday was officially over. We spent the rest of the evening huddled in the family room watching 'Murder She Wrote' and other various classics that would probably be on the Turner Classic Movie channel today. Even though Thursday was over, the Thanksgiving memory still isn't over yet.

The next day the family continued another tradition of going to downtown Cleveland. We never drove through the downtown area, we always took the rappies (the metro). I remember driving down the road to the metro stop. My Dad would always go around the round abouts five zillion times until my Mom told him to stop. My sister and I would squeal with laughter and I am sure the other passengers on the road thought we were all nuts (at least the driver). I remember my Dad telling me that even in the old days before there was four wheel drive, that they would travel down the same road to church on freshly fallen snow. As we arrived at the metro stop we would all get out the car and wait patiently until the rappie would arrive. I remember freezing as most Cleveland Novembers were always (and I mean always) cold as anything. When the rappie would arrive we would quickly (to get out of the cold) jump on the rappie. I remember doing my best to find one of the orange pleather seats that was facing backwards so that I could ride the entire way backwards. How fun is that for any kid!?! On our way downtown, my Dad used to always point out where the old St. John's Byzantine church was. It was sad in a ways since I could envision a memory of the area being lively with Hungarians strolling the street, but it was now more of a slum that no one in their right mind wanted to go to.

As we reached the end of the line to the mall, I remember hearing the engines of the rappies being so noisy and seemingly sighing of relief (this is a child's imagination) that they were finally at their stop and could rest from their travel through the Cleveland cold. My parents paid our fares and we would make our way up the long escalator to Tower City, which was basically a huge mall. While in the mall we made our way to Higbees Department store. Most would remember that Higbees in Cleveland was the store with the mean Santa Claus from The Christmas Story movie (remember the movie with the ugly lamp that resembled a woman's leg?). However, they had no Santa Claus there, bu they did have the most tremendous area for young children to go to. I remember it had a swan ride that resembled a rollar coaster, but it layed flat on the ground. My sister (who was too big for it) rode with me to "help me", but in reality I think she still wanted to ride it. Then we would go into a little shop specially made for children through a small door where no parents were allowed. This shop had baskets and shelves full of gift idea for parents and siblings. I believe I got a heart key chain for my Mom there because I thought it was so beautiful and shiny and it was made just for her. Once my sister and I were done with our purchases, we would head back into the main area of Tower City. Often we would see Mr. Jingaling, who looked like a old man in Christmas themed clothing with lots of keys. He was a Cleveland television personality for decades, but I had no idea what he was suppose to be. I loved seeing him and he loved seeing the children.

Mr. Jingaling

After we were done with Tower City, we would all make our way to The Arcade for lunch. Now the name may fool some people because it wasn't an actual Arcade with games and prizes. Actually it didn't have any of these things. On our way there we would smell the ever familiar smell of the nut shop and just HAVE to go in for some cashews. To this day, smelling cashews reminds me of that old nut shop in Cleveland. As we made our way to the Arcade we would typically see homeless people on the street. My Mom would give us money to hand out to some of them. I remember giving my money to a old man with a dog and in return he gave me a small green plastic piggy bank.

When we finally reached The Arcade, I was always stricken with how beautiful it looked inside even when I was little. It was more office then shops, but the food court always had pizza and that was something that made every little kid happy. I remember my Dad telling me once that he remembered the stairs as a small kid. I remember thinking how funny it was to imagine my Dad as a kid. He was a kid at heart, but being my age was something I just couldn't comprehend as a child. Typically The Arcade was our last stop to our downtown adventure and we would all head back to Tower City and take the Orange line home to Mayfield Heights.

The Arcade

A View of The Arcade in the early 1900's (it hasn't changed much)

To me, even though it was a simple Thanksgiving, it was one of the best Thanksgivings that I can recollect. A simple memory such as family getting together and enjoying one another is the warmest memories of my childhood.

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