Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Holidays and Italian Thanksgiving

Lord knows, I have no idea what to expect as we approach Thanksgiving and Christmas. Bill loved watching us decorate for Christmas. Actually, I remember lovingly our first Christmas together. He left on a Friday for the hunting camp and coming home, literally slammed on the breaks in front of the house as up on the hill, centered in the dining room window was a very large, very well lit and very beautiful Christmas tree.

Because of our family dynamic, having Christmas or Thanksgiving at our home on the actual day never rendered the entire bunch together. Kids visiting their mothers and fathers (natural) which finally left us the choice of celebrating early. So, Thanksgiving dinner with our bunch was generally the week before and nobody really wanted the traditional Thanksgiving fare. That is when Italian Thanksgiving began.

This year, the girls (Kate and Michelle) are absolutely against anything to eat that even resembles Thanksgiving fare. Only substituting a ham for a turkey on Easter, the meals are typically identical. (Remember, Bill passed not too long after our Easter meal April 9th)

His passing also represents new traditions. I am not cancelling our old ones, but this year feel that it is important for us to try and move forward. Still raw and fresh in our hearts is the emptiness of his absence, therefore I am confident that insisting upon keeping the status quo is a not so compassionate way to approach this. Hard enough will be navigating the memories without him, even harder will be trying to recreate something that will never be. It was because of him that those traditions began. It was he who enjoyed them so. He is gone. That tradition is gone.

So empty the chair he occupied, the space he commanded, the noise he created -

We have voted and agreed that the girls and I will be having Italian Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving Day. And, because I will not be cooking, we will revert back to a pre-Bill tradition and decorate the tree and house for Christmas - all weekend long!

The beautiful and thoughtfully collected glass ornaments we have amassed and used over the years will remain in their storage bins, safely marking time for another Christmas down the road. I'm even trading in the old candles for a new scent. The new natural burlap ribbon has been ordered and Tracey Cole and I will be applying the mercury glass look to any and everything we can find.
I cannot thank those enough for the invitations to spend Thanksgiving away from home. From South Carolina to Texas and many friends locally, the girls have said no thank-you to Thanksgiving fixins'. Nor do they want to spend Thanksgiving with another family. Hopeful that this will improve, I gratefully acquiesce.

My good friend Sonia Bertolone de Carillo has a locally famous restaurant named after it's founder (her father). Joe's Italian will be taking orders early for next week and I intend to get ours in today. The thought of Mamma's salad, lasagna, ravioli rose, cannoli, bread and dipping sauce, even a little tiramisu makes me smile.

After recently spending time with Giuseppe (Joe) Bertolone, I came away with a new respect for the guys who built and carried on their businesses, teaching and employing their children, building community with pride and quality. Joe educated me on his home place in Italy with great passion and I was able to assist him with navigating his facebook page. Overall, it was splendid. So perhaps it is not just about having Italian food for dinner, moreover, a tribute of sorts to Joe - the kind of man who goes to work every day, the man who takes care of his family. In sickness or in health because that is just what you do.

And then, perhaps I will throw in a purchased smoked Turkey for sandwiches and a Costco pecan pie. Perhaps.

As for Christmas, we have always traveled. Either by boat, plane, train or Suburban. Long trips, short trips, out of the country trips. Beach, Las Vegas, Texas, Utah, Colorado, Bahamas...

However this year, we are staying at home. And it will probably include the remainder of Joe's Italian menu items we did not get to sample on round one.

My name is Rhonda Brantley and my husband, Billy Ray Brantley suffers from Early Onset Alzheimer's Dementia. This is the best shot we have at documenting daily living.

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