Thanksgiving 1963

I don’t know why this particular Connecticut Thanksgiving, when I was 9, came to mind, but it could be because of the two Kennedy books I’ve just read back to back.  It got me thinking of that sad November in 1963, at my family dinner table.

My parents, especially my mother, took John F. Kennedy’s assassination very hard.  I remember her glued to the television set those hellish, haunting three days.  The fact she still produced her top-of-the-line Thanksgiving meal six days after he was killed, needs to be noted.

My father, trying to lighten things up, said she shouldn’t add salt to anything since she was already crying so much.  All that did was make her cry more along with wanting to stab him with her electric Black and Decker turkey knife.

I was her helper, collecting all the Kleenex she kept dropping on the kitchen floor.  My Italian grandparents who always ate with us, came up (they lived on the first floor), my grandfather in his brown satin holiday vest with the paisley lining, Gramma in a pink polyester twinset.  My dad, after being downsized for being a knucklehead, wore black like all whipped bartenders manning the bar before noon.

My mother, weeping, her pearls all wet, served enough food to feed Sing Sing: melon wrapped in chilled prosciutto, rigatoni bolognese, tossed romaine lettuce with toasted garlic croutons topped with shaved Parmesan, and this is when no one shaved…a roasted turkey so stuffed with sausage, apples and various nuts it looked like Orson Welles if he stayed in the sun too long…mashed potatoes, string beans, broccoli in cream sauce, turnips, glazed onions, yams and mushrooms rammed with ricotta cheese. All that was missing was a nurse and a heart surgeon.

Martini & Rossi Asti Spumanti, the cheapest wine you could buy back then, but her favorite, flowed like the Ganges.  By the time we got to pie and 53 kinds of Sealtest Ice-cream, we were all crying.

“Oh, povero John F. Keen-adee, said Gramma,” holding out her glass for a refill.

“He was so handsome,” mewled my mother, “and poor Jackie….and John John and Caroline.  Frank, open up another bottle…make it three.”

If you’re wondering what I was doing, I too was sipping, along with Fluffy the cat who didn’t mind a little nip with the turkey I kept feeding her under the table.

It might have been the first time I ever got drunk, since in our house it was a rite of passage to fall down the stairs, which I did, mistaking the cellar for the bathroom.

By the time the after dinner mints came out, no one was in an upright position.  My father had passed out on his BarcaLounger with my grandparents knocked down like bowling pins on the couch.

My mother, who could drink Erroll Flynn under the table, was clearing with me fearing, she’d want me to wash and dry.

“Ma, I’m not feeling quite up to doing the dishes.  Could they wait till later?”

“No, but as usual I’ll just have to do everything myself.”   For the record, I would have happily helped if I could stand up, a requirement when you’re drying platters the length of the Chesapeake.

As I headed toward my room I suddenly heard the sound of plates crashing thinking, well that’s one way to clean the kitchen, but then heard, “Susannah get in here, I need you to sweep the floor.”

Grief is certainly a mysterious emotion.

As writer Kurt Vonnegut said, welcome to the monkey house.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

SB     images

There will be no post on Friday.



About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Thanks.
This entry was posted in alcohol, animals, Books, dessert, Family, food, Home, humor, kids, parents, Politics, Women and men and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Thanksgiving 1963

  1. I remember that dark November all too well. Living in Florida at the time and next to family members across the street up the street, and everyone thoroughly depressed. Was not a great holiday season, way too many tears/


  2. micklively says:

    I was in my first term at infants’ school. There was so much other stuff going on in my life, that JFK’s passing barely registered. What’s a four year old going to tell you about a dead president on the other side of the world?
    Tales from your childhood never fail to amaze me.


  3. I’m really glad I was enjoying the comforts of my mother’s womb during all of this tragedy. When you look back at that entire decade it was more turbulent than anything we experience today, yet people forged on. They mourned together, which no doubt made them stronger.
    Your house was probably not the only house having such a Thanksgiving. Of course today we would be reading about it on Facebook, back then you just thought you were the only one.
    Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a lovely day filled with peace and joy.


    • I can only imagine my mother with a Facebook page. You’re right when you say it was a turbulent time. I was only 9 but remember the unrest amid courses everyone refilling their glass. Reality was just too hard to bear.

      Happy Thanksgiving Top. I remember when you marched in the parade.


  4. skinnyuz2b says:

    I was 13 when JFK was assassinated and remember it well. Such a sad time in history.
    Your depiction of your Thanksgiving was perfectly descriptive. I felt like I was almost there!


    • If you were, you would have never been the same. On the rare day when I find myself at someone’s holiday table, I’m always amazed how quiet it is. How come no one is yelling, crying or pitching that occasional dinner roll across the table? Is there something wrong with this group? 🙂


  5. Your mother must have been some cook! Were there only 5 of you? All that food you did need a heart surgeon!


  6. Rubenstein, Hal says:

    Happy Thanksgiving !


  7. Patricia says:

    Happy Thanksgiving, Susannah! Enjoy the holiday weekend.


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