Thanksgiving with Mom and The Tijuana Brass

11:50 a.m. Thursday, November 26. It would be a quiet holiday. Just me and Mom at the Actors Home for their annual Thanksgiving Day lunch.

I was nervous about seeing her. A little over four weeks had elapsed since her TIAs or mini strokes. I was afraid to see her further altered, especially after the dreams I’ve been having: dreams of Mom dying. I’d wake up thinking, “It would be a blessing if she went in her sleep,” just as she used to say. After the momentary relief and positive self-talk, the anxiety and sadness would creep in. My heart skipped a few beats.

When I arrived, her aide “L” said she wasn’t ready yet. I waited and spoke with a couple of the nurses and aides; we wished each other a Happy Thanksgiving. They thanked me for coming.

I saw one of the family members I know with her Mom. She was wearing a royal blue sweater and a silver brooch, her snowy hair swirled in a meringue-y bun.

“You look beautiful!” she said to her mother. She thanked the aide for dressing her so nicely, and she and her family walked toward the elevator.

L wheeled Mom out and said with his usual beaming smile, “Here she is!”

“Hi, Mom, you look so pretty in pink.” She was wearing her pink and beige print dress with a pale pink sweater.

“Thank you, L,” I said. “Why don’t you come with us to lunch?”

“I wish I could,” he said.

I was afraid Mom might freak out as she sometimes does in crowds, and away from her comfort zone. I made a mental note not to reserve a spot for us at the Christmas party this year. Last year she behaved very badly, so we ended up leaving early. I was hurt and disappointed.

Don’t be negative, don’t be negative, Erica. Take a deep breath.

We arrived on the first floor and I wheeled her into the lunch room. Tables were decorated with a trio of autumn-colored balloons tied to a paperweight of some kind. A paper “HAPPY THANKSGIVING’ sign and several paper cornucopias decorated the walls. Rod Stewart singing “The Nearness of You” piped through the speakers.

A friendly bespectacled man in a polo shirt with a clipboard asked our names and escorted us to a table near the window—sun streaming in, you could feel the heat.

“It’s warm today, Mom, about 62 degrees,” I said.

“Really?” she said, smiling.

“Should we get our own drinks?” I asked one of the women holding a pitcher of cider.

“No, someone will take your order,” she said.

“Okay, thank you.”

“Mom, do you recognize this song?”

“Yes,” she said, smiling even more brightly.

“It’s Rod Stewart.”

“Who’s that?”

“He’s a rock singer, but he sings standards too.”

“Mmm,” she said.

“Would you like some apple cider?” a young woman asked us.

“No, thank you,” said Mom.

“What do you want?”

“Oh, anything.”

“Ginger ale?”


“Ginger ale for her, and coke for me and some water,” I said. “Thank you.”

“I can feel the heat,” she said, closing her eyes.

“Yes, like a spring day.”

The next song that came on was “Tijuana Taxi” by Herb Alpert. Wow, that brought back memories of Jackson Heights. Mom and Dad had that album when my brother and I were kids.

“Mom, Tijuana Taxi!” I said.


“Remember, Herb Alpert? We had the album.”

“Oh, we did?”


I don’t think she remembered, but she smiled anyway. If only I had the album cover.

The nice man with the clipboard was going table to table with a camera.

“May I take your picture?” he said.

“Sure, but first would you take one on my phone first? It’s been ages since we’ve taken a picture together.”

I handed him my iPhone and showed him how. He already knew.


“Thank you,” I said.

“You’re welcome.” He took a photo of us with his camera. I wonder where the photos would be displayed.

I need the memories.

Mom stared at her plate.

“Aren’t you hungry?” I said.

“Yes, I have plenty.”

She scooped up some turkey and stuffing with a soup spoon.

“Would you like me to help you?” I said, bringing a forkful of food to her lips.

“No, this is easier.” She preferred the spoon.

I wasn’t that hungry either.

At about 1:30 I asked Mom if she wanted to go back to her room.

“No, I like it here. I like the sun.”

“Okay, we’ll stay awhile longer.”

And I was so afraid she’d make a scene or be unhappy. It seems I was the anxious one.

Rod Stewart started singing “S’Marvelous” over the loud speakers.

“Mom, you know that one.”

I started to sing along.

“Yes, I do,” she said.

What Would Jesus Buy


(David Halnes)

“When Black Friday comes,
I’ll stand down by the door
And catch the grey men when they
Dive from the fourteenth floor.”

Steely Dan

I don’t like Black Friday, but I do like Thanksgiving. It’s the least demanding of the major holidays. It doesn’t require that you write cards, buy presents or color eggs and prepare Easter baskets. You may be hosting a dinner or bringing dessert, wine or a side dish to someone else’s home, but that is tame in comparison to the financial bloodletting required of a true, red-blooded consumer on Christmas. Stop shopping and the terrorists win, remember?

I’ve never gone shopping on Black Friday. I’d rather spend a few dollars more and not be stampeded to death. Also, I am prone to panic attacks—especially in confined spaces—so it’s not the optimum environment for me in the first place.

Remember this one? “A 29-year-old shopper was pepper sprayed and arrested Thursday in a New Jersey Walmart after arguing with a store manager about a TV and attacking an officer, police said.”

Ah, sisterly and brotherly love at its best. There’s actually a site called Black Friday Death Count. Check it out if you don’t believe me.

We all like a bargain—maybe me more than most. I waited over a month to purchase an Anne Klein dress at Lord & Taylor because I knew they’d eventually mark it down. Patience has its virtues. After returning week after week, not only was it reduced by 40%, but I had a 20% coupon which brought it down to less than ½ the original cost. I was quite satisfied with myself over that one.

Back to the topic at hand. I was pleased to learn that Walmart employees in several states are planning a Black Friday walkout, asking for a more livable wage and safer working conditions. I think that’s fair, considering that the Walton Family, who owns Walmart, is the richest family in the U.S, with more wealth than Bill Gates and Warren Buffett combined. If Sam Walton’s dependents worked for their dividend checks this year, they would each receive $1.5 million every hour. Walmart workers get an average of $8.81 per hour and are routinely denied full-time work.

My experience with Walmart is limited to the children’s theater/literacy tour I did with Golden Books in 2000. Our little troupe performed on a stage in the Walmart parking lot (no kidding) in Bentonville, Arkansas on a snowy November afternoon. Bentonville is the site of the original store and corporate headquarters. The manager was less than cordial. Many of the very friendly cashiers were missing front teeth: the dental plan is only available to full-time employees.

Let me leave you with these kernels of wisdom from Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping:

We’re going to spread the good gospel through the Mall of America. You can walk away from the product! Drive the moneychangers out of the temple this year! We are all ending up inside these super malls! These products are taking over our lives! Stop shopping! Hallelujah! Change-a-lujah! Let’s change! We’re here in the heart of the Mall of America to urge you to join us and many other Americans in saving Christmas from the Shopocalypse!

Reverend Billy’s latest book, also made into a movie by Morgan Spurlock, is entitled What Would Jesus Buy?

Happy Thanksgiving to all and to all a good night!