“Thanks For The Memory”

 “Thanks For The Memory” is a song that was released in 1938 for the film, “The Big Broadcast of 1938.” (Ralph Rainger composed it, and Leo Robin wrote the lyrics.) The song was about memories, plural, but the plural version of the word never appears in the title or the lyrics. Later, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra both recorded it, along with other notable singers. However, it was Bob Hope who made the song a lasting memory after he adopted it for his theme song for The Bob Hope Show.

These, and other memories, were running through my mind late on Thanksgiving night as I sat in my hot tub, gazing up at the stars and contemplating my life. It seems like people don’t have much time to sit and contemplate their lives these days. I suppose people in prisons do, but those of us who are fortunate enough to have jobs, family, friends, and active lives don’t do a lot of contemplating. The lyric from a John Lennon song, Beautiful Boy, says it best: “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks, but for what? Originally it was a gathering of family and friends to give thanks for the harvest, and for just being alive and healthy. In relatively recent times the ‘harvest’ part of it has been pushed aside, although eating continues to be a primary part of Thanksgiving. People seem to celebrate all holidays by eating too much, so in that respect, Thanksgiving is no different.

For most of the last eighteen Thanksgivings, I have gone to the Old Country Buffet for my Thanksgiving feast. Occasionally I have one or two friends accompany me, but usually I'm alone. My friends who celebrate with families are often horrified that I do this. I get invitations to their homes, but I turn them down. I'm grateful, but not obliging. I have wonderful memories of many Thanksgivings at grandma’s house, surrounded by lots of family. Now that most of my family is gone, all I have are the memories, and I cherish them. Thanksgiving is when I think back to those times of my life. I never took time to do that back then, probably because I was too busy eating, making small talk, watching a ball game, or playing games with cousins.

I now gather with friends on a weekly basis. We eat out, or gather at some person’s house, and we have wonderful times. But we don't really give thanks. And that is why, on Thanksgiving day, I go to Old Country Buffet alone and then go home alone and sit in my hot tub at night. I think back to all those Thanksgivings with family and friends, and I give thanks. The memories are wonderful, and being alone is a great catalyst for them, because there are no distractions.

I remember packing for the the approximately three-hour drive from Columbus to Lakewood, Ohio, back before they had interstate highways. We usually stayed a few nights at grandma's and grandpa's house, so there were things to be packed, along with the food my mom fixed. In the early days, before my younger sister was born, my older sister and I sat in the back of my father's Pontiac. (He always had a Pontiac.) Later all three of us kids sat in the back. My mon always sat in the front, but she never drove. My father didn't like to stop, except to get gasoline, so he provided me with a small can in case I had to pee. It is the sole reason why, to this day, I pronounce pecan as "pe-kon" rather than "pee-can."

Mom had Spinal meningitis after my older sister was born. She was paralyzed on her left side, and the doctors told mom she would never be able to have children again. Then four years later I came long. I was an anomaly. Twelve years later my younger sister came along. She was a mistake.

Car trips were one of the few times that we were all together interacting as a family, and our arrival at my grandparents' house was the highlight of the excitement. My mom had a brother and sister who came with their kids (my cousins), so there were usually about 15-16 relatives. If I could pick one day of my life to do over again, it would be one of those early Thanksgivings. But now the best I can do is to spend some quite time alone on Thanksgiving to reminisce. And I'm very thankful for the memory.