November is a big month for Whitley and me. We were married 30 years ago on November 28 and our son was born on November 30, eight years later. And then, of course, there’s Thanksgiving.
I remember our wedding well. We were recent immigrants to New York, so poor that the super in our building took pity on us and loaned us some furniture. Despite our monetary situation, Whitley was determined to be married in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.
We didn’t live in the right parish, so we had to wade through a lot of red tape (and there’s no bureaucracy like the Vatican), but we managed to do it. They didn’t let us use the main cathedral, but we did get access to the small Lady Chapel behind it.
Before we could have a Catholic wedding, we had to attend a series of six instructional classes on marriage. The most recent series had already started, so we were sent to the final class first, then we were supposed to catch up on the first five classes during the following session. Whitley, wise in the ways of the Church, picked up a graduation diploma on the way out the door after our first class, so that was the end of our Catholic sex education.
Whitley has masses of relatives, all living in Texas, while I have very few anywhere, so we didn’t have many attendees at our New York wedding. His mother came up and took us out for dinner afterwards. Besides our small group of friends, we invited our teacher from the Gurdjieff Foundation, who “disappeared,” as he often did, on his way out of the church. After the wedding, we went back to our small apartment and changed clothes, and life went on as usual.
Every year at about this time, like every other woman in America, I start to wonder what to do about Thanksgiving. Now that I?m in San Antonio, I no longer have to try to squeeze a large bird into a tiny apartment oven. We usually go to dinner at the home of one of those many Strieber relatives, because our son, who lives in New York, saves up his airfare for a Christmas visit.
He and his girlfriend will probably cook a turkey in one of those tiny ovens and invite a few friends over. The turkey will undoubtedly be a little too dry and some of the side dishes a bit strange, since they are both learning how to cook. I remember our first Thanksgivings so well. Those were the best days of our lives but no one could have convinced us of that then, because all of our hopes and dreams lay in the future. I won’t try to convince my son of that fact, but I’ll know he’s storing up memories he’ll treasure later.
In San Antonio, we usually have Thanksgiving at the country house where Whitley spent his summers as a child, which is now owned by his rather conservative aunt and uncle. Whitley remembers the place fondly, since his summers were spent running free like a wild animal, capturing snakes, swimming in the river, climbing trees and getting skunked. His mother was of the “out of sight, out of mind” school of child rearing, and spent her days reading on the porch. The house now has an aura of Martha Stewart about it, but there are still good memories there.
I like Whitley’s relatives, but I feel awkward around them, because I can sense that they think we’re a little strange. They’re polite about it, but it’s clear that they feel uncomfortable about what he writes, and they seem surprised all over again, every year, when they discover that we have a national radio show.
Occasionally we get invited to a very different kind of Thanksgiving celebration, and this is one of those years. A gorgeous, ageless, wealthy, aristocratic female friend is in town for the holidays and has invited us to her feast.
There will be waiters carrying endless trays of drinks, perhaps an ex-husband in the corner, mysterious Moroccans who speak no English, sophisticated relatives from Mexico City smoking Cuban cigars, and endless talk about channeling, past lives, and similar subjects that fascinate our hostess.
What I like best about this exotic style of celebration is that it keeps my nostalgia at bay. It doesn’t remind me of Thanksgivings past, when my son was still a little boy and “turkey day” was a major holiday, especially when we had our cabin in the country, where Whitley had the Communion experience and our lives were forever changed. I won’t be sitting at a long table with rows of people who don’t really believe it ever happened and feel different, and lonely, while trying to keep a friendly smile on my face.
I?m going to be able to delight in the sensuous pleasures of the moment this Thanksgiving, which is a big relief, because memories can’t creep up on you that way. I will push from my mind the memories of December 26, 1985, when Whitley felt a lump on the back of his neck that looked like a needle mark, and the memories of his abduction flooded back into his mind, while the innocence of our youth vanished, never to return.
Yes, now that the Thanksgiving problem is solved for this year, I can relax for a few weeks. Then comes the next question: what will I do about Christmas?
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