Sixty-three years ago on November 22, 1945, my father stood in the very small dining area in our apartment on Wightman Street in the Squirrel Hill district of Pittsburgh, PA with my mom, his sister, my Aunt Mitzi, her husband Herbert Gold and their son, my cousin Ivan, and his mother, my Granny B, Bessie Baringoltz.
There was much to celebrate but also much to mourn. World War II was over. Germany had surrendered May 7, 1945, and Japan formally surrendered September 2, 1945.
The President who I thought was much like G-d, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had died April 12, 1945. My father’s father my Grandpa B, Jacob Baringolts died June 28, 1945. It was a spring and summer filled with gratitude and sorrow.
So Thanksgiving came and the small family of Jacob and Bessie Baringoltz with my mother the youngest of the Kromelow Clan and my Uncle Herbert of the Gold Clan gathered in our little apartment on Wightman Street for the holidays.
My mother was an excellent cook. I’m sure the table was splendid with all the good food that I remember for Thanksgivings of my growing up and adult years, but I can’t tell you what was on the table that Thanksgiving. In fact, I remember nothing about the food.
What I remember is that my father wrote a poem for this occasion. I remember him standing in the tight dining area space raising a glass of wine and remembering my grandfather, his voice breaking as he eulogized a man he dearly loved, and President Roosevelt a man he truly honored and respected. Then he proceeded with the poem “Oh Thanksgiving, Oh Thanksgiving. On this Day it’s thanks we’re giving. Cause Hitler’s and Tojo’s goose is cooked. ” That is all of that poem I remember and though I looked through all of his papers I never found a copy of this poem he wrote for that occasion.
I am not sure why my heart goes back to that Thanksgiving so long ago. This is a different time. Different challenges. But given what happened just a few weeks ago at the Tree of Life Synagogue not far from where we lived in Squirrel Hill the fears of my childhood, Hitler coming to America seemed all too real.
In case we had somehow forgotten, we were starkly reminded that antisemitism was alive and well and living in the USA along with all the other anti-gay, black, Hispanic, Islamic, anti you name it festering like a boil on this nations behind.
The past two years where anger, division, death, and destruction have accelerated across this nation for all too many. Where allies are demonized and foes are revered. Where murder is condoned and the ego of one man above all must be appeased. Where the divide between the haves and have-nots has widened and cries of the needy are drowned out by the excesses of the greedy, despite this I still believe we have reason to be thankful.
The midterm elections happened. And though the war isn’t over and we haven’t rounded up all the bad guys and we haven’t won all the battles and truth, justice, the American Way and Apple Pie is just a bunch of words this year I can say, this is for you dad. Miss you all the days of my life and thank you for all you taught me.
Thanksgiving November 22, 2018
Oh Thanksgiving, Oh Thanksgiving
On this day it’s thanks we’re giving,
Robert Muller still stands tall
DJT may take a fall.
The Rainbow flag flies high and proud
Women rose up strong and loud
Fossil fuel has a bad name
Renewables are bound to gain.
The NRA’s Russian deal
Has caused them to lose some appeal.
The midterms turned the Congress-Blue
And we can all be thankful too.
For young voters who turned out
They are the ones who will have clout.
Happy Thanksgiving to one and all
May our county stay free and stand tall
May you have a day of peace and rest.
And know that we wish you all the best.