Here is a holiday memory currently being run on The Huffington Post.
I'm not really about family values. Actually, I'm a bit of a selfish a-hole. But, I can't help but think about family around the holidays.
There were at least 60 people in my aunt & uncle's house in Sheepshead Bay on New Year's Eve, 1972. Some came from Far Rockaway. Some from Greenwich Village and Staten Island. Even Jersey City. It wasn't a huge house, but this was one huge family. And most of us liked each other. We knew nothing of therapy. The word "shrink" wasn't tossed off while ordering a latte. Our "shrinks" had monocles and said "ziss and zat." And what the hell is a latte?
Music was always playing in that house, not just on New Year's Eve. But that night, you could almost hear it over the din of 6 sisters, their husbands, the kids and their kids, screaming about who knows what. At one point, we had to stop eating because a poker game broke out on the dining room table. "Take your macaroni inside. ANTE UP!" Funny, it was the sisters. Their husbands didn't gamble.
The men were in the living room monkeying with the carousel slide projector, wanting to look at pictures from their vacations in New Hampshire and Spring Lake and watching some old movie with the sound off. I'm recalling a Creature Feature marathon; "The Creature With The Thing On His Throat," or something equally ridiculous. My Uncle loved cheapo monster movies. I was 9 years old and I remember everything about that night. I think the card game broke up around 2AM. Aunt Kay nodded off into her winnings, eyeglasses still perched on the bridge of her nose. It was about $8 in dimes and a dollar bill. Aunt Kay once fell asleep in my grandfather's den, in a chair, arms stretched forward. My father told me he woke up in the middle of the night to relieve himself, passed the room, and for a second, thought he was at the Lincoln monument.
25 years later and my wife and I are on our 8th year of spending New Year's Eve at home. Alone. We used to go out. Last meal I remember eating out was at Vince & Eddie's on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The table rocked, even with the perfunctory matchbook placement. The prix fixe steak was tough, and my lack of patience rocked the meat right off the plate and onto my lap. Home was better. Home was home. Huge meal, good wine, great music, and maybe if we were lucky, we were awake for the ball drop. Plus, as a bonus, our table was steady.
I don't see the majority of the people that were in Sheepshead Bay that night in 1972. Sadly, it is NOT because they are no longer with us. That would be natural. Yes, we lost some. But most were lost because of each other; unnatural causes. Promises with, I have to believe, good intentions, but never kept. Fragile egos. Differences of opinion that would make Israel and Palestine call us boneheads. BLAH blah BLAH blah BLAH. It seems like everything is worth less than it was. We're headed into a recession, but families have been struggling with their own recession since the creation of the stick.
Thanksgiving, 2008. There will be 15 of us at dinner, no one from Sheepshead Bay, 1972. I'm looking forward to this afternoon. This is a newish group of people. We haven't had the time to piss each other off. Not yet, anyway. I miss all those people from Brooklyn. And while I look forward to creating new memories with these people, my sentimentality presses hard against my heart and my cynicism tells me that no one from that house in Sheepshead Bay is reading this now. The good news is that I am hopeful that they might be. For that, I am thankful.