Making Waves: No matter expectation, Thanksgiving memories always shine

Thanksgiving, how we wish our family gathering could be like a painting by Norman Rockwell, when a lot of times it turns out closer to Norman Bates.

It’s the best of times or the worst of times.


Thanksgiving, like Christmas, is kind of a set-up. It’s a time when everyone has the perfect vision of the family, and tries to act like the vision, when no family is perfect, and in an hour or so together things come unhinged.

It’s like acting in a play when after a few cups of cheer the players step out of character and start getting drunk and real, that is belligerent. Aunt Gertrude doesn’t like how Uncle Harry does this or that and suddenly mash potatoes are flying around.

Then there’s the Norman Rockwell Thanksgivings, that was us, sort of.

I remember our family’s Thanksgiving at the folks’ house when mom and dad were there with dad carving the turkey and mom making sarcastic jokes about everything. And sweet little Nana with her silver hair and apple cheeks, a true Irish Lady born in 1893. She was the rudder of the family, keeping us on course.

There we were around the bright dinner table, my two sisters, and my tall, blonde-haired, brother, God Bless him.

And me, big brother, would drive down from the wine country to our Southern California, Orange County suburban home. We called it Ranchwood, the name of the street.

Our family was all about the laughs, we were the painting, the funky version.

After dinner we’d walk out into the backyard and look out at the orange groves behind our house. Back then they went on for 20 miles in every direction.

We’d look up at the line of majestic, 100-foot tall eucalyptus trees swaying in slow-motion, standing guard above the orange groves.

Now there are few oranges left in Orange County. There are 10 orange trees left, withering away in a dusty enclosure inside a chain link fence. The groves were replaced by town houses with names like Rancho Ranchero and Lake Meadows. It’s sad.

Now rich Orange County kids only read of orange trees in their social studies class, and wealthy golfers tread across golf courses where we once had orange fights.

My wish is that all of you have a Thanksgiving fit for a painting.


Please pass the gravy. Aloha.

Dennis Gregory writes a bimonthly column for West Hawaii Today. His email is Don’t miss his Aloha Show, Monday and Tuesday ch. 54, 8:25 p.m. and Wednesday and Thursday, ch.53, 7:55 p.m.