Our Act 2 readers recall some of their standout Thanksgiving...

Our Act 2 readers recall some of their standout Thanksgiving memories. Credit: Fotolia

We've all had that one Thanksgiving we'll never forget — the one spent away from home, the surprise guests, the not-so-perfect turkey.

When families gather for that great meal, we talk about Thanksgivings that make us laugh, warm our hearts and spark memories — often including tales about loved ones who are no longer with us. They're moments recalled with affection that have been embedded in family history and are kept alive with each retelling.

Act 2 readers are benevolent in sharing their stories about one of America's favorite celebrations. Some are presented here, with all good wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season.

Gwen Young,
Act 2 editor

NEXT GENERATION CELEBRATES AN AMERICAN TRADITION

Fresh paint on the walls, drapes hung and the house sparkled in preparation of holidays to come. This year, my grandmother decided to give up her hold on the holiday. Thanksgiving at her home brought the usual dinner items: pasta in the oven, meatballs, greens and artichokes, prepared with great care.

As an immigrant, she was not in favor of this celebration of a turkey. Never understood why a turkey should have a parade. Always asked, "It's only Thursday and you're sure that the boss doesn't expect you at work? And for sure he will pay you, too?"

My mother was the one to take over this celebration. She was considered the perfect American "want-to-be." This year, 1951, she learned about the traditions and foods served. Her decorating was impeccable. Figurines of American Indians, Pilgrims and a special centerpiece of fall flowers adorned the dining table.

Cecelia DeLuso, standing, fondly remembers the 1951 Thanksgiving in her...

Cecelia DeLuso, standing, fondly remembers the 1951 Thanksgiving in her home in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn when Rosa Costa, her grandmother, left, turned over the celebration to Jennie Tumminello, third from left, Cecelia’s mom. Credit: DeLuso family

All the ladies were busy as my mother orchestrated the sweet potatoes, turkey, creamed cauliflower and all the additional trimmings listed in the women's magazine that she held so dear. As the ladies wiped the beads of sweat from their brows, my brother and I drew on the windows as condensation formed from the freezing cold outside and the hot inside. The sound of blip, blip was heard as the tomato sauce bubbled around the meatballs, which would be served alongside the turkey.

My grandmother was pensive as she ran her hand along the edge of the paper tablecloth covered with turkeys and said, "Times are different and new." The warmth of that day has never left my heart.

Cecelia DeLuso,
Merrick

IMPROMPTU BUT IMPRESSIVE

About four years ago, we got a call on Thanksgiving morning from a cousin I had met only two or three times — yet I felt very close to him.

Terri Frankenberg, center, threw togther a meal for her cousins...

Terri Frankenberg, center, threw togther a meal for her cousins Jen and Michael Pinter. Credit: Frankenberg family

He said that he and his wife had just arrived from Australia, where they lived, and that they would like to have Thanksgiving dinner with us. I hadn't planned to make Thanksgiving dinner that day. We have all the other holidays where I make dinner, but Thanksgiving was not one of them. That day was sort of my day off, and usually we had blintzes. However, I wanted to see them.

My cousin was married to an American, and I knew I would not be able to get away with blintzes for dinner. Then I remembered that I had a few slices of leftover turkey in the freezer from a previous meal.

I went into action. Out came the few pieces of turkey. I drove to the fruit and vegetable store, straightened out the house, had the most wonderful meal and great time — a most memorable Thanksgiving indeed. Where there is a will, there is always a way.

Terri Frankenberg,
East Meadow

GIVING THANKS FOR A NEW ARRIVAL

Out of all the Thanksgivings I've enjoyed, the best was the one where I ate the least.

Jessica Coacci was born Nov. 22, 2000, two days before...

Jessica Coacci was born Nov. 22, 2000, two days before Thanksgiving. Credit: Coacci family

While that doesn't sound like a good one, it was, in fact, a thankful one. Having a beautifully set table along with a turkey and all the trimmings is what most Americans envision, but that wasn't my experience on Nov. 24, 2000.

My daughter Jessica was born very close to Thanksgiving Day that year.

Jessica entered the world at Winthrop University Hospital on Nov. 22, right before Thanksgiving. We were blessed to already have a son and a daughter and she added even more joy with her beauty and affection.

The next few days were spent in a hospital room, not inside a home, with a dining room table set with a Thanksgiving dinner. But, I was content with the moments bonding with my daughter.

A nurse did ask what I wanted for Thanksgiving Day dinner. Unfortunately, they had run out of turkey. I'm not sure what I ate that next night, but my husband, John, and I were thanking God for more important things.

After I took her home, we enjoyed some leftovers and, thankfully, my neighbor sent me one of the best pieces of cake I'd had in a long time — pumpkin cake! Not only was I thankful for a new baby but a wonderful neighbor!

Dena Coacci,
Massapequa

A PARIS TRIP THAT WAS NO HOLIDAY

Several years ago my boyfriend surprised me with tickets to Paris for Thanksgiving weekend, but I had never spent a holiday away from home. Paul reminded me that we could get that week off, and my daughter was living across the country, and, oh, yeah, the tickets were nonrefundable.

How could I resist?

Then I got the flu. I felt better on departure day, but the overnight flight in the uncomfortable middle seat had me jet-lagged and ill when we landed at 11 a.m. Paris time (5 a.m. me-time).

Paul thought the Metro would be the fastest way to our hotel. No! We dragged luggage up steps and through long passageways to catch three trains; then walked forever. Paris that November was rainy, gray and cold. I felt too sick to complain and cried with joy when we finally reached the hotel.

Check-in time was hours away. The clerk could see I was sick and exhausted. He took us to the fourth floor (walk-up!) to a room where beer bottles littered the floor. You'd have to step on the bed to cross the room. No matter, no reason to cross the room. No windows. No toilette.

The sympathetic clerk suggested a nearby hotel. It was old and shabby, but clean enough, and the room, with bath, was available immediately. I crawled into bed and slept until dinner.

We went to a bistro promising an Eiffel Tower view. But Paris, "City of Light," was going through an energy crisis. No lights. No view. My still-raw throat reminded me that there is no such thing as a nonsmoking section in Parisian restaurants, and everyone smokes. Cough-cough.

Paul spoke to the waiter in French. When the waiter turned to me, I smiled and said one of the few phrases I know in that language: "Je ne parle pas Francais" (I don't speak French). The very loud French-accented waiter blasted me: "Why don't you try to speak French!" He turned back to Paul, disregarding me. I noted that Paul's wineglass was fuller, his éclair larger than mine. I distinctly heard "Humph" with each dish I was served. Paul thought it was amusing. Not.

On Thanksgiving Day, during some rainy sightseeing, I wondered what a French Thanksgiving would be like. Would I order a traditional turkey dinner or go French and order canard? I missed the aroma of turkey and stuffing, so prevalent on Thanksgiving in the U.S. I felt homesick. I called my daughter; couldn't get through. Where were the mums in Paris? Where were the football games? These sports bars only broadcast soccer. I wanted Thanksgiving. I wanted my family. I wanted America. I wanted to go home.

Instead, we went to dinner. I thought I could get some turkey, even if it was cooked in a French way, but they don't have turkeys in France, at least not our kind. I ordered coq-au-vin. Paul ordered cassoulet. We were as far from Thanksgiving dinner as you can get.

I learned a lot about Thanksgiving that year. I learned that although turkey is not my favorite dish, it's important to eat it once a year. I learned that I am thankful that my life is so rich that I can complain about a trip to Paris. I learned that tradition is important, home is important and family is the most important thing of all. I learned that I'm lucky to have a boyfriend who plans romantic trips, and that you get what you pay for in online travel packages.

This year I will be bringing pies to my sister's house, where there will be 15 of us celebrating together.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Eileen Hession,
Long Beach

A LASTING LESSON OF SHARING

I was 8 or 9 years old, and the impact of one particular Thanksgiving stands out above the rest.

My parents were so grateful for all that they had, they decided to share and "pay it forward." They contacted a local organization and arranged for a needy family to come to join us for Thanksgiving dinner.

I was nervous at first, but once we spent time with our guests and got to know them, it was a wonderful day for both families. Their gratitude was overwhelming and the experience was quite humbling for me. Witnessing that small act of kindness my parents had arranged taught my brother and me life lessons of compassion and kindness that remain today. We both have volunteered and will continue to volunteer our time with love in our hearts.

Paula-Kay Magda,
West Hempstead

WHEN THE BIRD WAS ESPECIALLY FOUL

It was more than 25 years ago — but feels like yesterday — when my mom unwrapped the turkey to a horrendous odor!

I can hear her saying to my dad, "Dom, you need to return this bird. It stinks!"

Well, my dad wasn't the only one to return a turkey that Thanksgiving. According to my dad, the return line was down the block of the store! Our traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner that year came to a halt, and we ate chicken instead! In years to come, that Thanksgiving was spoken about quite often with much laughter.

Even though we ate chicken that holiday, I'd go back in a heartbeat to that day because, sadly, since then most of the family members gathered around that table are no longer with us. I am so very, very thankful for each and every one of them, holding them close in my heart.

Chris Viola-Weiss,
Oceanside

SOMEONE WAS ABSENT — BUT STILL PRESENT

Thanksgiving 1982 was filled with more relatives and friends than any other. It was a bittersweet reunion. Uncles, aunts, cousins and friends, many from out of state, came to pay their respects to the memory of my father-in-law, who had passed away the week of the holiday.

We hugged, kissed and laughed together as we recalled happier events in the times shared with my wife's dad. He was an exceptionally kind and gentle person, had a way with children, and they all loved him.

In fact, Dad had a way with everyone. He knew how to listen with his ears and his heart. He lived by the credo that others came first. He gave joyfully and never wanted thanks or recognition.

On the last day of the wake, which was Thanksgiving, we wanted to share a meal with the family before leaving for home. No one had even thought of preparing a dinner. It was decided to invite several family members to go out to dinner to satisfy our need to be together.

We got into our cars and the caravan proceeded down Jericho Turnpike. It was late and every restaurant was closed. Finally, after we traveled about 12 miles, we found a diner open.

The waitress who greeted us said, "What are you people doing here on Thanksgiving?" We tried to laugh off her question, while menus were distributed. When our food was served, our three little girls and our 4-year-old son started to hold hands with the family members before saying grace. We thanked God for the food, but gratitude was overshadowed by our heavy hearts.

In the past, I sympathized with families who had a loved one pass away close to Thanksgiving, or any other special event that is associated with the joy of family gatherings. I thought that it must be very hard on them with every future anniversary of the date, as it would bring to mind the sadness for the passing of the loved one.

Surprisingly, however, I have found it makes Thanksgiving more significant. As I look at the kind and compassionate faces of our children and grandchildren at the dinner table, I realize that my father-in-law lives on in them. This Thanksgiving I will give thanks for many things, but in particular for having Dad as part of my life.

Gerald Fortsch,
Smithtown

TURKEY AND TWO SIDES FOR 39 CENTS

The best Thanksgiving I ever had was in the year 1956.

We had just moved to Country Village in East Islip, to a new home. My husband, son and I sat at our dining room table enjoying TV dinners by Swanson, which only cost 39 cents each.

My daughter was the first baby born in that development.

Rosemarie Tavares,
East Islip

BOARDING A BOAT IN THE BIG EASY

In 1983, while our son Kevin was stationed at the Naval Air Station Meridian in Mississippi, he invited us to join him in New Orleans. He had accrued some leave and wanted to spend it with us over the Thanksgiving weekend.

He gave us the directions to lodgings and made arrangements with the management to provide us with access to the place. Several days before the holiday, we hopped on a plane at JFK airport and after a three-hour flight, we were in The Big Easy. For Kevin, the drive from the base to the city was only a little over 200 miles, mostly straight down Interstate 59. He joined us the day after we arrived, and together we did some sightseeing.

As Thanksgiving Day drew near, we perused the newspaper ads trying to decide which of the many restaurants throughout the city we would select to enjoy our holiday dinner. There, in the Times-Picayune morning newspaper, my wife, Catherine spotted an ad for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, which looked too good to pass up.

We ordered tickets that provided us with the unique experience of enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, aboard a paddlewheeler going up the Mississippi River.

I'll bet that's an item that not many people would think to place on their bucket list. It wasn't on mine, but I'm pleased that I had the opportunity to experience it.

Jim Gallagher,
Ronkonkoma

Submissions to My Turn must be the writer's original work. Email act2@newsday.com, or write to Act 2 Editor, Newsday Newsroom, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747. Include your name, address and phone numbers. Stories will be edited, become property of Newsday and may be republished in any format.

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