Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Back Pages: Thoughts On Thanksgiving - Part II

My Back Pages: Thoughts On Thanksgiving - Part II: Thanksgiving is our favorite Holiday. My wife and I come from different backgrounds, but the one thing that we always had in common was ou...

Thoughts On Thanksgiving - Part II

Thanksgiving is our favorite Holiday. My wife and I come from different backgrounds, but the one thing that we always had in common was our love of this one true family holiday. It's a time for families to take a break from their sometimes hectic lives, to sit and enjoy each other's company, catch up on what has gone on this past year, and reflect on how much we truly have to be thankful for. We often complain about things that we do not have, or things that seem to irritate us all year long. That's just the natural, human thing to do. To take the time to reflect on all the good things that we do have on this day, is somehow fitting and it makes one realize that the US is a great place to call home.
  I take time on this day, in between chopping, stirring, roasting, and the frequent glasses of wine, to reflect on the Thanksgivings of my younger years. They were something to remember, because the whole Zaffino famiglia would gather at my Grandparent's home in New Rochelle. My mother would, along with my aunts, help Grandma make the ravioli for the  second course. They would do it on big boards in various bedrooms and the kitchen. Fresh, and delicious, along with my Grandma's home made sauce... heaven. The men would sit or stand around, drinking their drinks, smoking if that's what they did, and tell jokes. The women who weren't working on the dinner, would sit and talk along with them, laughing, singing, and carrying on. There was so much love and joy in those Thanksgiving get togethers. The eating would start just before noon, and carry on, off and on, all day, until the turkey was served around 6 or 7 in the evening. The glow on my grandpa's face at having his big family all around him was something to see. He was the picture of happy serenity. My Grandma, although working the whole week before and all day on the day, never appeared tired. Just happy to have the family around. After dinner, there would be nuts and assorted dried fruits... the pies came later on. The adults played cards and board games, while the children colored or played their games. We would go home very late, tired but happy.
 When my grandparents died, there were few huge gatherings like that ever again, although the family would 'Make the rounds' on the holidays, visiting each others homes for a holiday toast. If they did it today, everyone would be in jail for dui, but those were different times. and accidents were, miraculously, non existent. We enjoyed a scaled down version of those early feasts, but it was still all about family and being together.... Family Time.

 After I returned from the Marine Corps and my parents moved from New Rochelle to Mahopac, I continued to go to their house for the holidays, bringing my family along. After the end of my first marriage, and my subsequent second marriage, I added two step children and a new baby to our family, and we continued to get together with my brother and my sisters and my sister's family at my mother and father's house for the holiday. It was a tradition that everyone enjoyed. It was a tradition that everyone needed. When that ended with my father's death, and my mother moving across the country, I was at a loss at first. I was working for New York Telephone, and I worked on the holiday, in those early years. The first Thanksgiving in our home, I came home at eleven thirty at night to find a full turkey dinner that my wife had cooked especially for me. I was profoundly touched.
  The next year, we had my father in law, and my brother in law and his wife down from Albany for Thanksgiving. As the years flew by, our house was the place to be for Thanksgiving. We watched the kids grow each year an eventually go off on their own, but we still had our Thanksgiving get togethers. My brother in law and sister in law stopped coming a few years ago. They had moved to South Jersey, and it was just too much of a trip. We still had our children and their families. It was always a great day for family. Like I said, we love Thanksgiving.

  Tomorrow, we will enjoy our Thanksgiving together. Not as full a house as it used to be, but we won't be alone, either. I will reflect again, as I just have, on years past, and raise a glass of wine in tribute to all those wonderful family members who are  now gone, but have left me such a wonderful, rich legacy of memories. I hope that you all have good memories to reflect on, too, and I wish you, one and all, a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My Back Pages: Thoughts On Thanksgiving- Part I

My Back Pages: Thoughts On Thanksgiving- Part I: Thanksgiving  2008 OK, now I'm going to sound like the Old Man that I am. This is about Thanksgiving, after all, and Thanksgiving is an ...

Thoughts On Thanksgiving- Part I

Thanksgiving  2008
OK, now I'm going to sound like the Old Man that I am. This is about Thanksgiving, after all, and Thanksgiving is an old tradition that dates back to Abraham Lincoln. So if you get bored with old-timer stories, hang in there, because this is going somewhere, and I have something to say.
  Back when I was a young boy, Thanksgiving was a really big deal. It wasn't just Black Friday Eve, or the day that people sat in front of the Television with a plate of food, watching every mind numbing football game that your 200 - Plus television channels will bring you. It was a time to be with your family and enjoy a big meal together. It was a time to reflect on everything that you were thankful for. People got dressed for dinner. Mom and the other women of the family would start cooking and baking days in advance whatever they could, so that the family could sit and enjoy each other's company. No one worked, except for certain utility workers, and people that worked in movie theaters. Some businesses were open early in the day, but all shut down by 1 PM. We had blue laws in those days which required most businesses to be closed. We could not even buy gasoline after 1 PM. What you had was a government mandated day that families could spend together. If you had a television, it was an old B&W set for most of us, and it was turned off after the Macy's Parade was over. Sometimes the kids were allowed to watch the holiday fare that was offered; usually Babes In Toyland, or something similar. The point is, the family was together, and it was a day of good cheer and thankfulness for what we had, including each other. These were good years  to grow up in. Your mother or father, or both, did not have to go off to work in the local department store, so that the owners of the store could get a jump on the Christmas sales. The people that ran the businesses back then knew that they would make plenty of money after Thanksgiving, and despite what you hear from year to year, they always do make a lot of money. These days, though, there is a lot of hand wringing about how much they made or didn't make over last year. It's always "More, More, MORE!!!" Sometime, in the years that followed my childhood and young adult years, the blue laws were lifted in many locations. The big stores started out opening their doors Thanksgiving night. That wasn't good enough... over the past couple of years now, they are open Thanksgiving Day. No longer required to close by law, they open all day, and some actually are open for 24 hours, and they force their employees to work. No more family time. The hell with you and your family time. You either come in and work, or you don't have a job... it's that simple. The men and women who run these corporations don't care about the individuals who work for them. To them, they are just means to an end, and that end is to make as much money as they possibly can. It doesn't matter to them, because they will be off that day, having  dinner with family and friends, with not a thought for the public that makes them their millions except as people to be used and extorted in any way that they can. People losing their jobs means nothing to them, no more than changing a lightbulb that no longer works. Corporations have lost the humanity that it took to build them in the first place. They are soulless entities that are incapable of caring about the people that work for them. 
  If only we would, as a unified people, take a stand and not go to their sales. If only we would send them the message that families and family time together is important, that the meaning of Thanksgiving is not shopping for the best deals that you can get. It's about being thankful for living in a free country where you can spend time with your family and friends a few precious times a year. It's about being together as a family for at least one day a year, taking the time from our increasingly busy lives, to enjoy each other's company and reflect on how lucky we all are to have a family. I will tell you one thing: No one in my family will be patronizing any of these stores on Thanksgiving. Whether or not they celebrate with many, or a few, they will celebrate the holiday. How about all of you?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Happy 237th Birthday Marine Corps....Thoughts On Veteran's Day, 2012

 As I sit here on the day before the birthday of my beloved Marine Corps, and two days before Veteran's Day, I am wondering what on earth can I possibly write about this year? Our Greatest Generation continues to slowly pass into history, the work that they did to save America and the world from the horrors of Nazism/Fascism, and the unfinished war in Korea and the blood that they shed to keep the South free, all seem like a story that someone has written. A terrible fiction that could not have happened. After all, how could anyone throw themselves directly into the mouth of hell, certain death all around them,  their friends being blown to bits: and yet,somehow, they managed to prevail and take down Fortress Europe and defeat the Axis there. The forces in the Pacific sacrificed themselves on island after island, from Guadalcanal, through Iwo Jima, to Okinawa, they threw themselves at an entrenched enemy force who's soul purpose was to enslave the people of Asia and the Pacific Islands and, ultimately, Hawaii and the United States. Finally, the brave pilots and crews of the Enola Gay and Bockscar, dropped the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to finally end the war. President Truman will always be remembered as the man who ended the war through the use of nuclear bombs, but it was these brave men who actually flew the missions. 
 These same men, the survivors of the two great theaters of war, came home and started to get the country moving again, off of the war footing that it had been on, and back to the peacetime business of running the manufacturing plants and thousands of other businesses and raising their families. Disrupted by the war in Korea, thousands more answered the call to stop the spread of communism to the sout3h of the Korean peninsula. Many more Americans and allied forces lost their lives there. They fought the forces of North Korea and the Communist Chinese to a standstill at the 38th Parallel, where both sides signed a cease fire which remains in place today, almost 60 years later. 
 These were brave men and women, many who made the ultimate sacrifice for the continued liberty of the free world. We may never see their like again, and it makes me very sad to watch them fade away. On Veterans Day of every year, I salute them. On a daily basis, I remember them and thank them for all that they have given me and every other person across the globe who are able to enjoy the freedom that they defended. Without them, there would be no United States. Without them, there would be no elections, no freedom to express your thoughts and not be sent to some remote prison. Without them, there would be no me. Thank you, Dad, for your bravery in volunteering, no, insisting that you be sent to the European theater to help end the war, when you could have stayed safe in the Canal Zone. Thank you, Uncle Harold, for risking your life, over and over and over again, island hopping in the Pacific, climbing Mount Suribachi and watching that flag raising, then fighting that horrible, bloody battle to secure that island. Thank you, Chesty Puller for being such a beloved leader of men that your Marines would have followed you to hell and back.
  In the Vietnam War, the children of these brave souls were called to fight a different kind of war in the jungles of Vietnam. It doesn't matter if you think that the war was right or wrong, moral or not. That is for the scholars, men and women much smarter than I, to decide through hindsight. The fact remains that so many served, some voluntarily, some through the draft.. but they served; and so many died or were maimed. Some suffer to this day from the things that they were exposed to during that war. I served, and I am proud that I did. Given the ability to foresee the ultimate outcome, I would not change a thing that I did. I was raised to believe that we owe a service to the American People for the privilege of living relatively free. We did our duty, and we are all proud of our service.
 After the Vietnam war, things did not change much, except that the draft was finally ended. We still had men and women volunteering to serve. We still had men and women being killed on foreign soil. The Marine Barracks in Lebanon, Granada, Panama. The '90s saw our brave volunteers fighting the first Gulf War to secure the freedom of Kuwait from the criminal dictator, Saddam Hussein. After the attack on the World Trade Center. Our troops saw action in the civil war that divided the former Yugoslavia, and went in to stop the genocide of Muslims by the Serb dictator Milosevich. We saw the slaughter of the brave Delta force soldiers and the crew of the helicopter by Somalian forces. The result, 17 dead and 73 wounded from the US. 
  After the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the United States and it's allies entered into two wars, Iraq and Afghanistan. The brave military personell from the US are all volunteer now. These wars have maimed and killed thousands of young men and women, yet they continue to volunteer. 
 I want to thank each and every service member, living and deceased, active and retired, for their sacrifice and unswerving courage in the face of the enemies of  freedom. I salute each and every one of you and thank your for your service. You continue to make me proud to be an American Citizen and Marine Corps Veteran.
 To my fellow Marines: You have always made me proud to have served in this unique organization. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARINES and SEMPER FIDELIS!!