Bruce Bentzman's Suburban Soliloquy

We are so often the cause of our own misfortune. Simultaneously, we are often enough the reason for our good luck and happiness. It is usually attitude. This month, November, has provided me with examples of misfortune, good luck, and a healthy attitude.

It began when mother was involved in what she refers to as a car accident. It happened in the parking lot where she lives, a collision between two residents, ladies in their "golden age."  My mother was at a definite disadvantage, as she did not happen to be in a car at the time of this "car accident."

I was at the library when the news found me. It caused my mother, my wife, and myself to change our plans. We were to visit my father's grave on the occasion of what would have been his eighty-eighth birthday. The plan went on to include dinner afterwards at a steakhouse, as homage to my father's memory. It is what he would have wanted, for all of us to eat at a steakhouse. It didn't matter as much that we might have wanted to eat elsewhere. Those plans were never fulfilled. I caught up to my mother in the emergency room of the local hospital.

She had a gash on the inside of her left foot and ankle. The laceration climbed seven inches from the bottom edge of her foot and up her leg. Through the half inch gap I could see the glistening white of her ankle bone [medial malleolus]. It is impossible for me to imagine how my mother could obtain such an injury so low on her leg. What part of the late model Dodge (a pun that comes too late) would have made contact with her ankle to cut it?  I'm inclined to think her exceptionally delicate skin split open on contact. I held her hand while the doctor, with careful patience, laced her up. Thirty-eight stitches, while we joked and laughed, and only a few times did she cringe, but never did she whine about the pain.

They issued my mother a cane and with it she hobbled out of the hospital, unassisted. By this time it was dark and too late to visit the cemetery. Besides, my mother and wife were "starving!"  We didn't take the time to drive to the steakhouse, now too far away. Instead, we took my mother to eat a leisurely meal at a local Italian restaurant. We sat in a booth, the two of them opposite me, my mother's patched foot raised and resting on the bench beside me, bleeding slightly. We are talking about one tough lady, a dancer. The hospital staff found it hard to believe her roundelay around the
sun has been seventy-seven times. Despite the impact with her neighbour's two ton car, there had been no damage to my mother's replete bones and practiced muscles. Oh, but her thin vellum-like skin made the injury appear frightfully severe.

Her wound is healing nicely. Two weeks following the "car accident," the stitches were removed and the next day was Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Day is descended from a harvest festival, similar to those one can observe in many parts of the world. In the United States, it began in 1621, when Governor William Bradford, the second governor of the Plymouth Colony, proclaimed the day for giving prayers and thanks to God in celebration of their first harvest. The story goes that Native Americans contributed to the success of that first harvest and were accordingly invited to join the harvest feast. In 1863, President Lincoln made the holiday national. By this time the Native Americans were no longer showing up for dinner.

It is a very different holiday, now. We are no longer a nation of farmers. All foods are always available, are being harvested somewhere in the world where it is still warm, or in tracts of land confined to greenhouses, or are simply kept in freezers to be made available when desired. Also, the suburbanite is no longer part of an extended family of four generations and their cousins living under one roof. Extended families don't even live in the same village very often. The typical suburban house is designed for one couple and their immediate offspring. As soon as our children are old enough, they are expected to leave home. They have to do this to find jobs, which can be very far away. They no longer have their parents' farm to work.

This is why the population of the United States shifts en masse at the start of the Thanksgiving Day holiday. People congest airways, railways, and highways in order to again re-form into extended family units that are often dysfunctional and proceed to curdle. It can sometimes be an ugly recipe for a Thanksgiving feast.

Our Thanksgiving Day tradition has become to celebrate our gratitude and happiness by dining at the Waldorf Café in Philadelphia. We don't make arduous trips for an evening with people we feel obliged to spend time with regardless of the stress. We do not have to cook or clean plates, and we tip our waiter or waitress respectfully for their sacrifice. The Waldorf Café is a snazzy little restaurant. The recorded music that gently fills the background is warm jazz and torch songs. Sadly, this year we were too late to make reservations.

Instead, the three of us had a late dinner at the City Tavern in Philadelphia. This is a replica of the original City Tavern built on the same ground back in 1773 and had served as a prominent place for my nation's Founding Fathers to eat and drink. They had achieved great ideas and my family is among the benefactors. We dined beneath tall ceilings of large rooms lit by imitation candle light on the walls and real candles on the table. Every attempt was made to provide us with an authentic colonial meal. Indeed, our main entree was turkey, prime rib of beef, and baked country ham, which is not to say we selected from among the three, but were automatically served all three at once on our plate. The staff were in the costumes of the time. We drank from pewter mugs and chalices. The biscuits came from a recipe that was Thomas Jefferson's favourite. And my mother had an ottoman placed to one side on which to rest her still healing foot. The doctors promise she will dance again.

Bruce Bentzman

This is the twenty-fourth in a series of regular reports from the life and times of Mr Bentzman. If you've any comments or suggestions, the writer would be pleased to hear from you.