I sure do miss the days when my Aunt Millie and my cousins would drop in for dessert after their meal on Thanksgiving Day. But life has gotten hectic, and my mother and her sister Millie are — as they both like to say — not getting any younger. It is tough for either of them to “house-surf” during the holidays.
So when my cousins invited Mom and me to participate in a “week before Thanksgiving” celebration at my Aunt Millie’s rehab facility this past Thursday, I jumped at the chance.
When we arrived there was a table for five ready for us, and we arranged Mom and auntie so they had a good view of the evening’s entertainment. “There was a band here last year,” Aunt Millie had said. So she was a bit disappointed to see just one man and a sound system. “What is he going to do, I wonder?” said Aunt Millie. “Maybe he is a stripper,” I yelled so my aunt could hear, ever the joker.
We were seated one table away from a large group including four generations of a family — the handsome elder statesmen (whose name, we learned later, was Quinton), his sons, grandchildren, and a beautiful infant who was Quinton’s great-grandson. It was touching to see the generations enjoying one another’s company so much, and the parents of the great-grandbaby watching as Quinton held him carefully in his arms.
As it turned out, the man providing entertainment was not a stripper (so it had been a waste of time for me to pull those singles out of my wallet and roll them up) but a very talented vocalist who sang Karaoke-style and encouraged us to join in.
Soon after the entertainment started, I felt like I was being swept up in a wave of happiness. It was contagious, almost like it was spreading from table to table and from person to person. Every person in the room was smiling. We sang along to many of the songs, each of them bringing back fond memories; Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore,” Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight,” Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” “God Bless America” sung by Kate Smith, and — for the young folks, the singer announced, looking meaningfully at Quinton’s grandchildren — “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by the Tokens.
I had to laugh at the last dedication, as the young folks at the next table hadn’t even been born when “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was popular. But they went along with it, because it was just that kind of evening. Simple in its perfection, and perfect in its simplicity.
I felt profoundly blessed to be a part of it.