Last week, after stopping at Pallucca’s for sausage in the Republic of Frontenac, I drove by the house where I grew up until age 14 and started having flashbacks.
The first was in black and white. It was a Friday and I was still full of turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, pumpkin pie and football from the day before, when I’d feasted with my grandparents, parents and five brothers and sisters in our knotty pine dining room after the high school football game.
Not just any high school football game but “the” high school football game, Frontenac vs Arma. The last game of the year — always played on Thanksgiving Day. The one that, no matter the record of either team, would make or break a season.
The game brought followers not only from both mining towns, but also fans from far and near to cram the concrete stands or walk the sidelines behind the slack steel cable strung between rounded posts where many a dispute — and occasionally a fistfight — broke out between rowdy fans.
It was like ancient Rome; gladiators in the coliseum arena surrounded by bloodthirsty spectators. A coliseum located just half a block from our bungalow on Crawford Street, where, after the all pageantry and near mortal combat, we gorged like Roman Emperors and Emperesses.
The last Frontenac – Arma classic was played in the snow on Thanksgiving Day, 1959. Fittingly, it ended in a 20 – 20 tie.
My next flashback, also in black and white, was of riding in the ’55 Chevy with my mother to Penney’s and Sears and running into the store to pick up Christmas catalogues. Oh what joyous volumes they were! Especially the fat Sears that kept me wistful for hours at a time as I worked my way through the toys, bikes and ball gloves. And when I got a paper route, the Moped.
Then came a Saturday afternoon Technicolor recollection of going with my friends to see “A Bucket of Blood” at the Fox and afterward weaving my way through the crowded Pittsburg sidewalks to window shop at Wheeler’s, Kress’s, Woolworth’s, Toy Town and Western Auto.
Especially Western Auto — the smell of the new rubber tires and the vision of Western Flyers waiting in gleaming rows; beauties with horns, headlights, chrome forks, rims and handlebars, white sidewalls and reflector pedals.
For Thanksgiving dinner his year, Linda, Arlo and I gathered with Gary and Marianne and members of the Onelio clan in their new abode built at the edge of the farm pond on O’Nelio land in Dunkirk.
Lasagna, ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, cranberry salad, green salad, rolls, turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes and gravy — followed by cheesecake, cherry pie, chocolate brownies and pumpkin pie topped with Cool Whip.
Of course we had football – the Bears and Lions flickered from a digital TV (with muted sound) in the corner.
My niece, Dommi, and her husband, Christian, brought their 4 month old baby, Ozzy, for his first Thanksgiving with family. He was, of course, the main attraction. Not to mention the most spiritual person in the room — other than Gary and Marianne’s 11 week old puppy, Birdy.
For who can match a newborn or a puppy for the ability to be fully present with no concern for past or future? No agenda. No need to impress, inform, convince, perform, etc. Pure being. One minute they were bright-eyed and full of vigor, the next eating voraciously, the next fast asleep.
They reminded me of the story of a Zen student who asks his teacher, “Master, what is enlightenment?” The master replies, “When one is hungry, one eats; when one is tired, one sleeps.”With this in mind, as soon as I started feeling a little hungry on Thanksgiving night, I ate some cherry pie and a chocolate brownie and washed it down with a glass of milk. This made me sleepy so I went on to bed, even though it was only 8:30. Then slept in till 7 a.m. Friday morning. “You sure got up a lot later this morning,” Linda said as I walked into the kitchen. “Did you sleep okay?” “Yeah,” I replied, “like a baby.” — J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and celebrant. He also operates Knoll Training, Consulting & Training in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 620-231-0499, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 401 W. Euclid, Pittsburg, KS 66762