Thanksgiving went well.
There were no tears or tantrums — a reason, in itself, to be grateful.
One mini-drama developed. More on that later.
In general, ours is a pretty harmonious bunch.
Political consensus accounts for much of the serenity — there is little partisan rancor and only minimal risk of the skillet cornbread being hurled across the table — and, as parents of middle-age children, we notice a dwindling of aggregate family energy.
Who has the strength at this point to air long held grievances — you always let him get away with everything; oh, she was just perfect, wasn’t she? — when it is so much more pleasant to have another sip of Chardonnay, listen to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong sing “Cheek to Cheek” on the hi-fi and let the day pass pleasantly into oblivion.
Now, remarkably, it is as likely to be our children complaining about sore backs and achy shoulders — as apt to be a son or daughter, not Mom or Dad, looking dreamily beyond the candle glow, sighing at the passage of time.
Yes, indeed, the pages of the calendar fly off as in old movies. Things change, paid attendance drops. All of a sudden, everybody fits around one table.
Years past, we had big crowds. No place to go? Sure, come on over, we’ve got plenty. Reporter pals from Newsday. Neighbors. Dear friends from Malverne and Long Beach and distant New England.
There was a year when something like 35 showed up.
We had to borrow folding tables from the church to handle the overflow. Seating was so tight you risked rotator cuff injury passing the mashed potatoes. Once in place, guests were locked tight until the final bite of pecan pie. No room passes.
Making the event particularly memorable was our younger daughter’s idea to bring home three — or was it four? — friends from college.
They were a lively and polite bunch, but internal strife churned just below the surface.
By dinner hour, the collegians were glaring at one another and we feared one might douse another with my mother’s famous gravy, a shame because Mom turned out a perfect product — lumpless and in high demand.
Armed hostilities were averted and, though unreconciled, the young folks returned to college — in faraway Indiana — the next day.
“Boy, I’m glad we’re not on that trip,” I said to Wink, my wife.
“You couldn’t pay me,” she said.
Back to Mom, for a moment.
Deep into her 80s, she was team captain. Vegetables, casseroles, pies, gravy, the glistening, brown bird — Mom was master of them all. We were strictly bench players, Wink and I, assigned to peel onions or maybe cut string beans on the required bias. Otherwise, Mom had it covered.
She’s long gone. Each year, exhausted by the effort to put a big meal together and wondering how in the world Mom did it more or less solo, we still raise a toast to say “wow” and, boy, we miss you.
I should have left it at that — the annual tribute to dear, departed Winnie, kitchen MVP, stalwart soul, Granny extraordinaire.
I moved ahead to the Gettysburg Address.
With the country so wrought up these days, I thought it might be soothing to hear a brief message of reassurance from Abraham Lincoln — emphasis on brief.
His famous speech, delivered on Nov. 19, 1863, smack in the middle of the Civil War, counted fewer than 300 words. Less is more, Lincoln knew.
“Fourscore and seven years ago …” I began, certain I’d be done before the mashed potatoes cooled.
I was fine through “The world will little note, nor long remember” and “the last full measure of devotion.”
But when I hit the last line, and tried triumphantly to declare “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth," the bottom fell out.
I gasped. I gurgled. I croaked as if reviving Froggy the Gremlin from the old “Smilin' Ed's Buster Brown Gang” radio show.
Things got worse.
I tried to make clear there was no need for the EMTs and that you can’t always predict emotions, but only a pathetic yodel emerged. I have a recollection of teenage grandchildren nodding at one another with looks that said, “Poor guy’s lost it.”
Finally, Wink put me out of my misery.
“Everyone’s hungry,” she said. “Let’s eat.”
I regained composure and consoled myself with cranberry relish.
So much for messages of solace and hope. Next year, Lincoln’s on his own.