Ever since I was a little girl, my family has celebrated Thanksgiving at Aunt Shirley’s. We’d suffer through the Belt Parkway traffic heading into Brooklyn, and then spend another 20 minutes looking for parking. But the holiday-traffic aggravation melted when my aunt opened the door to her home, where the table was set for at least 20 people.
Every family has their own tradition at Thanksgiving, and ours went something like this: homemade chopped liver and smoked herring on crackers. Matzoh ball soup, the matzoh balls broiled as a finishing touch, so they were crispy on the outside. Turkey, of course, and brisket, separate gravies for each. Stuffing, and sweet potatoes – once my husband joined the family, he brought a sweet potato soufflé, complete with marshmallows, a recipe he learned growing up. Then there were the pies – yes homemade crust, Aunt Shirley wouldn’t hear of anything less – and also cakes. One year Aunt Shirley recreated a blackout cake from Ebinger’s, the famous bakery.
Growing up, Thanksgiving used to extend into Friday. When I returned to school on Monday, I’d tell classmates that for both nights of Thanksgiving, we celebrated in Brooklyn. Always there was tons of family, and extended family. And friends. And friends of friends.
In 2010, Aunt Shirley, decided to quit while she was ahead. She told us it was the last year she would be hosting Thanksgiving.
Things had to change.
So now we’re celebrating Thanksgiving at a family member's home on Long Island, and everyone is bringing at least one dish. I volunteered to prepare the turkey, just as Aunt Shirely has for so many years.
As it roasts, I’ll head over to the Turkey Trot, sponsored by the , which helps support local charities. There, I know I’ll see friends and their families, and friends of friends.
In Port Washington, people take care of people just the way Aunt Shirley did. And sometimes we have to look beyond our families to find a sense of home.
I didn’t grow up in Port Washington, but it’s easy to see that there are plenty of caring people here.
There's the “” program, for example, which helps spread holiday cheer to local kids. And the lets Port Washington know when more donations are needed because more of our families are in need.
The signs of family and tradition are everywhere. On Tuesday, the Port Washington Police Benevolent Association distributed 20 complete dinners to the less fortunate in town so that they can carry out their Thanksgiving traditions in their own homes. And Parish Outreach program enabled another .
Wednesday's – a Port tradition since 1940 – evoked a sense of family there, too.
At a time when people and are doing more with less, I’m sure I’m not the only one whose family tradition is in flux.
But in a town like Port Washington, there are plenty of opportinities to give and receive support, not only through relatives and friends, and friends of friends, but neighbors, too.
As I learned growing up visiting Aunt Shirley, it's what families do.