As time continues to move along, our priorities and values in life begin to shift drastically from a love for the far less significant, such as Nintendo, to valuing the time with the ones that we love most. Thanksgiving and Christmas's for me growing up were spent in the company of my extended family with 30+ over indulgent people, laughing, playing, and taking too many pictures. Today, much of that has dwindled as all the kids have grown up, our parents have gotten older, and as life continues to take everyone in opposite directions. Visiting my mother's condo, and being a guest in my Aunt Julianne's house again, I found my eyes glued to epic early pictures of my youngest cousins who now stand taller than me. The days of the bumble bee costume, and bad childhood haircuts have been long surpassed, but the images and memories remain vivid and far from forgotten.
Christmas of 1991. If I had the opportunity to go back to one day in my past, that would be the date. I don't remember every detail, but I can remember the shared happiness, and the outfit I wore. As per Christmas tradition, a family member would volunteer to dress as Santa to hand out gifts to the children. Some family members played the role better than others, one of the most memorable performances being by my Aunt Christine. Aunt Christine, my God mother at birth, has always been the aunt who effortlessly would make everyone smile around her. Her silly behavior, ability to cry at the drop of a hat, love of life, laughter, Kenny G and Michael Bolton, dancing, sailing, and unusual fashion are just some of the many comical attributes which have always made me crave her presence. Christmas of 1991 was the year I received my favorite gift, a tape recorder, which for many years I used to tap the phone line on my teenage sister's conversations, do investigations, record songs I made up for my parents, and interview my family and stuffed animals. It was the year that I questioned the true existence of Santa Clause, to soon after discover that he indeed was a fictional character. I remember it being one of the most memorable Christmas's together as a family. Our traditions were in full force; which everyone was present and gathered at my Aunt Julianne's house, the kids played hide and seek, rough housed, and played nintendo, everyone ate their fourth and fifth course, laughed and talked loudly over one another. That long lost togetherness was prevalent. I would give just about anything to have those holiday's back.
This past Sunday I visited Aunt Christine at Stony Brook hospital in Long Island. She has been in and out of the hospital having had gone through multiple surgeries this past year in a battle with stage four Colon Cancer. Our family is no stranger to Cancer. My father battled Cancer throughout most of my childhood, and my uncle John had lost his life to Cancer (Aunt Christine's husband). As a child we are numb, and don't quite understand the true severity of situations such as these. As a child, we view those parental and adult figures as being invincible, with spirits that could never be broken. As a young adult, I wish to feel that numbness. With her hair disheveled from a week of being bed ridden, I combed through the knots of her dirty blonde locks, feeling her weakness, as each tug jerked her head back from the root of her scalp. Tired of the pain, and filling out hospital forms, she remains hopeful that she will be released in time for the holidays to make stuffed artichokes and chicken parmesan. Strong with no signs of weakness, my selfless mother stands by her younger sister's side, caring for and keeping her company as she undergoes the emotional and physical strain of this evil disease. This Wednesday my mother plans to cook according to my aunt's instruction and homemade recipe so that her children do not experience a Thanksgiving dinner without her infamous dishes.
Reverting back to the five fingered elementary turkey with the blank line: "AMANDA -Thank you for ____________."
I find that it's more difficult now than ever to narrow down and insert what I'm most grateful for in one blank line. This year, I am most grateful for those who have colored my existence with beautiful memories, old and new. I'm grateful for the experiences my music has given me, the new friends it's connected me with, and the people it again has brought me close to, and back in contact with. I am grateful for the love I've been given and constantly receive. I am grateful for my talent and health. Please don't be blindsided by the over-commercialization of such holidays, and take a moment to reflect, and to recognize the true meaning behind it's existence. May your Thanksgiving be rich with blessings.