Just in time for Thanksgiving, some fun facts

Just in time for Thanksgiving, some fun facts

When my father was writing his doctoral dissertation, he was required to submit it in triplicate: one for the committee, one for his adviser and one for himself.

This was years and years ago, long before easy access to relatively new inventions like mimeograph machines and Xerox copiers.

Fun fact: Carbon paper was invented in 1801 by Pellegrino Turri.

It was just Dad, his research and his typewriter, but he had an ace in the hole, a secret weapon he deployed, not because he wanted to, but because my mother insisted on it.

She, of course, was the answer to his question, the one that went something like, “Um, well, since this could take a while, what am I supposed to do to make an untenable deadline?”

One of my earliest memories is that of seeing Mom, sitting at the kitchen table, surrounded by stacks and stacks of paper, typing away at a pace I would later learn was, well, physically impossible, though that was a word that was in neither of their vocabularies.

Fun fact: Of the 11 college degrees earned by the five of us, I got one, making me the least-educated member of the family.

Mom and Dad were married in their late 30s, and they raised their children in the fashion of the day, meaning they made most of their mistakes on me, their first-born child.

I wasn’t aware of that at the time, of course, but it only makes sense. After all, who doesn’t do better with Thanksgiving dinner than someone who’s already experienced turkey trauma?

Fun fact: An adult turkey has more than 5,000 feathers.

One of our family traditions was that on Thanksgiving morning, Dad would go up to the storage area in the den and bring down our favorite Christmas stuffed characters — a Santa for me and snowmen for my siblings — which gave us a jump on the season.

This was an example of how they adapted on the fly, adjusting to necessity, which blossomed into another tradition, that being our annual Christmas Eve treasure hunt. It offered a diversion before Midnight Mass but also quieted our clamor to open gifts early.

That’s some skillful parenting.

Fun fact: The fire department had to be called to our home on the night before Christmas in 1965, but we still had the treasure hunt.

I almost outdid Dad in the holiday hazard competition when, after hosting my brother and his family in our second Carolina Thanksgiving, I put the wishbone in a pan of water on the stovetop, thinking I’d set it on low.

When we returned from a walk to the marina for sunset, black smoke wafted from the front door, owing to the fact all the water had evaporated, leaving the wishbone to char in the pan.

It was not my finest moment, and I think it contributed only tangentially when they decided to cut their visit short by a day.

Fun fact: More home fires occur on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year.

Holiday entertaining is best left to the professionals, which is why I never tried it until I’d met the woman who’d become my wife.

She has a gift for turning my dreams into reality.

Knowing some of my best memories revolved around card games with friends in my basement room during summers home from school, she wondered why I hadn’t revived that tradition.

“The day after Thanksgiving would be perfect,” she said, already seeing it in her mind’s eye. “We could invite wives, girlfriends.”

And so it came to pass that for three years in the late ’90s, our home became the site of a most festive card party, replete with friends, music and a wide variety of taste treats including Trail bologna and cheese cubes, a shrimp plate, three kinds of chicken wings, egg rolls, Jones’ potato chips, and assorted beverages.

Fun fact: That house was built in 1847, according to one of my card-playing pals who got curious about the place and looked it up.

The day after the party also was pretty great featuring, as it did, the Ohio State-Michigan game and all manner of savory leftovers.

Football played a role in my high school Thanksgivings as well, as on the day after, a bunch of us would gather for the Turkey Bowl, a no-holds-barred, rambunctious game of supposed “touch” that inevitably devolved into something a lot more physical.

Fun fact: No ambulances were ever dispatched to the church yard where we played, though it was close when a nosebleed persisted.

“And how was your game?” Mom would always ask as she sat at the kitchen table, highball glass at her elbow, the house filled with the incredible aroma of her roasting turkey. “Anyone get hurt?”

“Not this year,” I’d say. “I’m gonna grab a shower before dinner.”

Fun fact: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year.

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