The Thanksgiving I remember best wasn’t necessarily the best. But I remember it because of where I was and who I was not. It was my first Thanksgiving away from home; it was the first one I celebrated in the Army (if you call being in the Army a cause for celebration); additionally, it marked the end of a romance and the beginning of my existence as a man on my own.
With forty plus other Army Intelligence & Security (AIS) officers I’d gotten to know at infantry officer training at Ft. Benning, I’d begun Intelligence School at Ft. Holabird, in Baltimore. November is a dreary time of year most places in the country and Baltimore seemed even drearier to a guy 1,479 miles from home.
My buddy from Queens, John David Crow (not the football player), was a fun and funny little guy who had lived a rather insular life. After all, if you live in New York City, what else is there? He had never owned a car, which was okay—no place to park in Jackson Heights, anyway. Frankly, I’m not sure he knew how to drive. I didn’t mind taking him with me in my new Chevrolet Corvair, the car that Ralph Nader made notorious with his book, “Unsafe at Any Speed.”
The Vietnam War was heating up (it was 1964). The special people in our lives seemed very far away that November. We figured most of us would be shipped out to SE Asia after we finished Holabird. So it was with
gladness that we received the announcement that classes would be dismissed from Wednesday noon through Sunday of Thanksgiving week.
I made some calls to see if I could catch a hop back to Oklahoma and return early Monday, knowing it was very, very doubtful. I called my mom and told her I wouldn’t be home for Thanksgiving but expected to see her Christmas. Then I made the call to the blond back in Stillwater, telling her I wasn’t sure if I could get back for Thanksgiving but was wondering about Christmas … Very, very doubtful.
Oh. I wasn’t sure what to do with myself so I called John Crow (not the football player) and said let’s play some handball. I beat the tar out of that ball. My hands were like mincemeat afterwards.
John could tell I was down. He hadn’t read Nader’s book so he invited me to spend Thanksgiving with his family if I’d provide the transportation. He said his mom was Italian and really knew how to cook and that his dad sang with the Metropolitan Opera under the stage name of Jon Crain. I said yeah, that would work out ‘cause it looked like I was gonna be free for the holiday.
It was less than 200 miles up to the big town, which is like a Sunday drive in the Oklahoma Panhandle. We had a great pasta dinner Wednesday night that John’s mom prepared. Thanksgiving was another sumptuous meal with just the three of us as John’s dad was gone someplace with the Met.
I could say that my holiday with John and his mom was almost like being home but I’d be lying to you. Anyone with a normal upbringing understands that nothing takes the place of being with those you love over the holidays. But if I’d somehow managed to work out the flights to have gone back to Oklahoma to see the blond, I might have made some insane commitments. That would have been a durn-fool thing to do. I was nowhere near ready for a permanent relationship in 1964, even if she’d agreed to it.
So I thank the Lord that he kept me far away from Oklahoma that Thanksgiving 48 years ago. The other guy got the blond and ten years later, I got the right woman for me.
What’s your memorable Thanksgiving?