Our VoiceCulture

A Thanksgiving with Gran

Rebecca Poswolsky • Nov 24, 2010

For years, my family’s Thanksgiving tradition has been getting take out from New York’s 2nd Avenue Deli.   While many think of 2nd Avenue Deli as a place to get a pastrami sandwich or matzoh ball soup, to me it represents the best Thanksgiving can offer.  Picking out what kind of pickles and rugalach to order is not easy.  My family usually settles on an assortment of sour tomatoes and pickles, along with both chocolate and raisin rugalach.  Thanksgiving is the one day each year I give in to our annual ritual of making hard menu choices, and enjoying eating around my grandmother’s crowded one bedroom apartment in New York City.

Referred to everyone in my family as “Gran,” my grandmother lived in the same rent-controlled New York City apartment since my father was born.  My Gran’s apartment was timeless.  Unique chach-kees covered her walls.  A glass duck with a brass head sat on her low marble hors d’oeuvres table in the center of her living room.  There was a great deal of glass and marble in her apartment.  The uniqueness did not come from the rigid materials, but rather, from the combination of 1940s collectibles that only she would hold on to.  Wooden frames covered her walls.   One had a young Pinocchio looking boy with a red triangle top hat.  Her handmade red and white polka dot fabric lined the curtains and the living room furniture.  The kind of material that only she would have picked out.

It was the hodgepodge and assortment of aesthetically intriguing pieces combined with the randomness and playful edge that Gran decorated with that made the apartment what it was.  Her kitchen was the best example of this.  An elegant stained glass hanging venetian lamp was coupled with more wooden frames, some of which had nothing in them, one that held a cut out magazine picture of a piece of cake and a fork and knife.  My Gran’s small white wooden circular table sat in the corner of her kitchen.  The table, meant for two, like her kitchen, held five of us on Thanksgiving.  Resting above her unused stove top were over 20 antique match boxes from around the world.    My favorite was a cowboy looking blue-teal boot made out of see-through glass.

We all filled the kitchen on thanksgiving.  Of course, mostly we took turns setting the table and squeezing around each nook of the apartment to do so.  Not sure if it was the amount of us occupying her tiny apartment, or Gran’s desire to keep the apartment at 80 degrees, but no matter what, every year, each of us besides Gran would prepare and eat Thanksgiving in shorts and t-shirts, (she would be wearing a night gown).  Trying to argue about opening a window was no use.  It might have been 40 degrees outside, but Thanksgiving always felt tropical. Warming up and putting into ceramic light green and pink watermelon painted dishes our favorites from 2nd Avenue Deli was an easy task.   Assuming nothing was forgotten from the delivery, Thanksgiving was perfect.

Gran made jokes about setting a place mat for Elijah.  It was the one time a year Gran’s apartment remotely smelled like a home cooked meal.  A festivus miracle indeed. For my family, Thanksgiving was about waking up to the door bell ringing, hoping that the chopped liver my Gran ordered for “leftovers” was closed tight enough and kept far enough away from our meals that we could all embrace just how special our weekend would be.

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