Dick Summer Connection

 I’ve been asking you to send your favorite holiday memories to Dick@Dicksummer.com. Here is one of the best I’ve ever received. It’s from Proud Podcast Person John Gfroerer: 

           Thanksgiving, 1970.  It was the last time my family all gathered at our home in Tonawanda, New York for the holiday.  Just twenty years old, I had moved to Washington, DC that September.  The lust for independence from parental control was my guide and I was making sure there would be no going back.  I was on my own, I had a job I loved, my wings had unfurled and I was discovering I really could fly.  Being absent for Thanksgiving was going to be the first test for the strength of those wings.      In Washington I was on the staff for a citizen action organization.  The week before Thanksgiving we had worked with Senator Gene McCarthy of Minnesota to hold a two day Senate hearing on welfare reform. It had been an intense couple weeks leading up to the hearing.  And when it was all over I experienced my first post action “what now” moment.  Adding to the emotion was an internal drama where I worked. The day after the hearing ended there was a staff purge and four people were let go.  Having survived gave me a new measure of confidence.  I felt valued.  I felt accepted and wanted.  My wings began to feel secure.  There would be no going back, I was going to make it on my own.    Along with that realization, it suddenly felt alright to go back for a visit. I didn’t tell the family in Tonawanda that there had been a change of mind and I was coming after all.  A friend offered a ride from Washington to Syracuse the day before Thanksgiving.  From there I hitchhiked on the New York State Throughway.  I remember getting picked up fairly quickly near the toll booths where Interstate 81 intersects.  He wasn’t going all the way to Buffalo, but wanted to make sure I made it home.  Using the CB radio he put out the word for anyone “going to the nickel city” that had room for a rider.  A truck driver responded. In the darkness somewhere near Rochester we rendezvoused with an eighteen wheeler.  I can still reach back and touch the moment, see that truck slow down to pick me up, feel myself jump up into the seat and welcomed by the driver.  Happy Thanksgiving was everywhere and with everyone.  The trucker got me close, but it took another car or two to complete the journey.  I walked the last block to my parent’s house, drinking in the significance that my home was no longer this street.  I still had a bedroom there, but I knew as the house came into view that I would never live there again.  I decided to knock on the front door to get the full effect of my separation and my mother’s surprise.  There was a moment of disbelief, then she hugged me and the holiday began.  It was Thanksgiving, the family was gathering, even me. I remember very little else about that Thanksgiving.  It was the travel, the anticipation, the surprise, the sense of having established roots in another place–they all combined and fixed the moment in my memory forever.  I’m sure we had turkey and Waldorf salad and pumpkin pie and ate on my Mother’s special china using the silver that only came out for holidays.  Because that is what we always did on Thanksgiving.  Growing up there I thought it would be that way forever.  Then I grew up a little more, and it never was again.  Just like that, as easy as making a wish on a wishbone, past and future separated and went their own ways. Thanksgiving will always be a time to give thanks for the richness and blessings in our life.  But there is something else as well.  There is the possibility to go back for another touch of what once felt like forever.  Just knowing that it is there and possible and waiting on a certain Thursday of every November of every year is like having a hand to hold forever.            You grow up and move away and build your own nest for your own children to jump out of and come home too.  Thanksgiving weekend they clog the roads and airports and bus stations to affirm one more time that there is a place called home.


2 Responses to “Dick Summer Connection”

  1. Bill Killeen says:

    Can you hear the song, “There’s No Place Like Home For the Holidays” !! Another Great Story and WKBW, KB Country, do bring back good memories, thank you John and Dick !!

  2. Carole says:

    What a wonderful Rite of Passage Thanksgiving story. Thanks so much for sharing!