Thanksgiving was different this year (at BoomerCafé we are masters of understatement), but many baby boomers found novel ways to feel close to family, even if they weren’t under the same roof. Ann Foley did at her home in Bronxville, New York, and even rediscovered something she cherished in her childhood.
Thanksgiving 2020 is over but the memory lingers. No physical family gathering. Drive-by food drop-offs and coordinating times for group Zooms were the order of the day.
On the eve of Thanksgiving, my son Thomas initiated a FaceTime call to me while he was reading a bedtime story to my two-year-old grandson Caleb. As Thomas read, a tune entered my head. The fairy tale I was hearing sounded familiar and I started to hum along silently as Thomas read, turning the pages while showing Caleb and me the pictures.
It took me back in time, more than 60 years back, to Ireland, as I remembered scenes when I was only four. My mother and two older sisters were singing along with the radio that same nursery rhyme song I found myself humming, as though it was just for me. It became my favorite song. It played often on the “wireless” and eventually we even had a recording of it on the “gramophone,” and I was able to memorize the words and sing that mesmerizing tune.
Which lead me to ask on Thanksgiving eve, “Tom, that sounds like a song from my childhood in Dublin. What year was the book written?”
He looked at the front pages. “1907,” he said. When I got off the FaceTime call I googled the song and found out more about it. The melody was written by an American composer in 1907 and the lyrics were added by Irish songwriter Jimmy Kennedy in 1932.
The next day, as the family gathered for a synchronized six-way Thanksgiving afternoon Zoom call, the conversation was upbeat and the 17 participants included all ages ranging from two 2-year-old cousins to one 94-year-old great-grandmother. The topics varied from the triumphs and struggles of potty training, to Thanksgiving entrees. Most households went for just cooking a turkey breast and catering the sides to support local restaurants, with cranberry sauce and desserts (homemade or store bought) added.
Then the topic of bedtime stories came up. I asked if anyone remembered the fairy tale from the bedtime story Thomas had read to Caleb. Then I sang the first line. My five-year-old grandson Harrison immediately started singing along with me. He said his other grandmother had a CD of it in her car and with that, his mother joined in as well as others.
We sang “If you go down to the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise,” from “The Teddy Bear Picnic” song. My three grandsons’ faces lit up as everyone who knew the words began to sing the tune as if it was just for the three of them. The old song was delightful for all ages and resonated with a simple spirit of joyfulness and vibrancy.
And so, the Zoom call made our otherwise isolated Thanksgiving more connected, more memorable, and more of a reminder to each of us of what we were grateful for.