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Thanksgiving Leftovers

by Eva Pasco


Thanksgiving Leftovers by Eva PascoTwelve years old in 1963, when Thanksgiving fell on November 28th, our traditional family dinner was saturated not only with gravy but of the grave. Mere days prior to celebrating a national holiday rooted in the bountiful harvest of our Pilgrim forefathers, families across  America bore the brunt of sadness. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, our 35th President, was assassinated Friday, November 22nd, 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time in Dealy Plaza of Dallas, Texas. As if that weren’t already shocking enough - the murder of his alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, by Jack Ruby, took place on live television the 24th.   


Subsequent coverage of the assassination and funeral for our fallen leader proved to be one of the most moving and historic passages choreographed by the media.  Monday, November 25, declared a National Day of Mourning, left indelible impressions still vivid in the minds of Baby Boomers.  During the funeral mass at St. Mathews Cathedral, the phrase from JFK’s first inaugural address comes through the loudspeakers – “Ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country.” We are reminded that John-John turned three on this day.  Outside the church he salutes his dad as the caisson passes by. The repetitive drum beat resounds. Black Jack, a riderless steed with boots pointed backwards in the stirrup haunts us.  The newly widowed First Lady, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, stately and solemn in black, presides with composure…  


My family always celebrated Thanksgiving at home rather than “over the river and through the woods to relatives we go.”  Just as well because I’d previously disclosed how I’d spent most of my childhood and adolescent Thanksgivings languishing from the flu and coming-of-age afflictions such as the measles or chickenpox. My mother’s multi-course banquet of antipasto, escarole soup, stuffed turkey with all the trimmings, oven roasted chestnuts, and freshly baked chocolate cream pie assured plenty of leftovers for raiding the fridge during TV commercials. Leftovers also made appetizing meals in the aftermath– turkey and stuffing over toast covered with gravy or turkey salad sandwiches. 


Turns out there are leftovers to ponder in history too. Contrary to popular belief, the Pilgrims didn't wear buckles on their shoes or hats.  Far from being teetotalers, they smoked tobacco and drank beer. As for President Kennedy’s assassination, despite the finite conclusion by the Warren Commission’s ten-month investigation, conspiracy theories still abound. Though my Thanksgiving holidays have changed their course, so to speak, I still have many leftover memories smothered with the comforts of home. 


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