Fond Thanksgiving Memories

Holidays are often the building blocks of our memories. Our regular News & Notes contributors share their favorite Thanksgiving memories. We hear from Betty Baye, Robert Traynham, Julianne Malveaux, Jeff Obafemi Carr, Allison Samuels, William C. Rhoden, Patrice Gaines and Ron Christie.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

Holidays are often the building blocks of our memories. We asked some of our regular contributors to share their favorite Thanksgiving Day moments.

First, here's political analyst Robert Traynham.

Mr. ROBERT TRAYNHAM (Political Analyst): Sitting down with my family on Thanksgiving Day with the football game on in the background, laughing, joking, eating way too much food, and really just reflecting on what family really means and love and friendship and respect. You know, Thanksgiving for me is a period of time where you sit back and reflect, not only about your life, but also about what family means and what love means. And so, that's what I'm going to be doing, is really just spending some good quality time and making sure that my family members know that I deeply care for them a lot.

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Dr. JULIANNE MALVEAUX (Economist): There's a large extended family of people who come to Winston Salem, North Carolina to celebrate Thanksgiving with Dr. Maya Angelou, and I'm privileged to be part of that extended family. That will be how I'm spending Thanksgiving and looking forward to just a warm, wonderful reunion with so many people who've been so important in my life.

I have one memory that I enjoy about 10 years ago when I did my first Thanksgiving dinner at my home and had a tableful of people, and it actually turned out quite well. I was a little bit surprised given my culinary skills, but I have a picture, and I couldn't even put the year on it. We were just all sort of sitting there, kicking back, every body, really friendly conversation, just really appreciating the value of family.

CHIDEYA: that was our economics maven Julianne Malveaux.

And here's essayist Jeff Obafemi Carr.

Mr. JEFF OBAFEMI CARR (Author): There was this one Thanksgiving holiday that we all decided to go and visit in Columbus, Georgia with some of my mom's relatives - a really small community, small neighborhood, not much to do, so me and some of the older cousins and my brother-in-law, we started walking through the neighborhood, and we saw a basketball court. So, of course, we went over to play basketball and there were a bunch of teenage boys there thinking they were Michael Jordan.

So, of course, they see the old cats coming and they want to challenge us to play a game of basketball. So we said, well, sure thing. So we lined up on either side and started playing basketball. And what do you know, we whipped the crap out of those kids. So they got angry and they said, no, you can't leave; you've got to play us again. And we played them again; we played them two more times, and we beat them. And they didn't realize it's because each one of them was trying to show off their basketball skills and we were setting picks and boxing out and doing things that old, slow guys do when they have to learn a game of basketball against kids, so we beat them soundly. And as we limped back to the house feeling full of pride, we just remembered that that was a great day when the old guys won. So we had a big dinner and we all went to sleep, and it's probably one of the best Thanksgivings I've had.

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Ms. ALLISON SAMUELS (Correspondent, Newsweek): It's funny, my favorite Thanksgiving Day memory is not really - it's on Thanksgiving, but it really is with my grandmother. On Thanksgiving Day, they - she always wanted us, after dinner, after the turkey, after we were full, to go upstairs in the attic and get down Mary, Jesus and Joseph. That was her thing. That as soon as Thanksgiving, you know, dinner was over, we had to go up and get those, you know, plastic, sort of models of Mary, Jesus and Joseph, so we could set them up because she wanted all that time for it to be out in her yard.

So that that was like this ritual that we had to go and prepare for Christmas right after Thanksgiving dinner. So she gave no time to Thanksgiving. It was like, okay, we ate the turkey; it's done. Let's move on to Christmas now.

So that's my favorite memory because I love the little, you know, the little models of Joseph and Mary and Jesus. I love them; I thought they were so gorgeous, so that's why I would be the first one upstairs, you know, to sort of get them down.

CHIDEYA: That was Allison Samuels, our entertainment contributor.

Sometimes, family meals mark a rite of passage. Here's essayist Patrice Gaines.

Ms. PATRICE GAINES (Former Reporter, Washington Post): When I was 12 years old, I was moved from the children's table to the adult table. I think it was because there were more children than chairs at the card table, which was the children's table. But I took the move to mean I had matured; that I was ready to sit with my parents and grandparents and other visiting adults.

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Mr. WILLIAM C. RHODEN (Columnist, New York Times): My favorite Thanksgiving memory is sitting in my grandmother's house in Harvey, Illinois with all my, like, 15, you know, relatives or brothers and sisters, eating Thanksgiving dinner, and then not having to clean up afterwards.

I think I'm going to spend this Thanksgiving Day with my 83-year-old father and mother in Las Vegas.

CHIDEYA: Vegas, huh? That was our sports guru William C. Rhoden.

For political analyst Ron Christie, the best thing about Thanksgiving was the way it brought generations together.

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Mr. RON CHRISTIE (Political Analyst): Without question it has to be back when I was in high school in California. My grandparents are both in their mid-90s now and they live Valdosta, Georgia, and they really don't like to travel. But that particular year, my folks were able to convince them to jump on an airplane, and they came out, and they had Thanksgiving dinner at our house, along with my brother and my parents and my uncle and his family. And it was just neat having our extended and our close in family under one roof at one time and just staying up and laughing, and, without question, my happiest Thanksgiving Day memory.

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Ms. BETTY BAYE (Reproter, The Courier-Journal): My sweetest, sweetest Thanksgiving memory is the night before Thanksgiving, sitting in the kitchen with my mom. It was a very small kitchen and a little eating area. And mom and I would sit at our table, and my job, primarily, was to pull the edges off the bread for my mother's dressing. My mother made this homemade stuffing, no stovetop, homemade stuffing, and I would just sit there with her. But what was really sweet about it was that's when we would really talk, and it would go on until late in the night. My sisters were in bed. My father might have been out somewhere with his friends, but mom and I would just sit in that hot, little kitchen talking. And sometimes we'd get so hot that we had this big stone that we would sit in our door to keep the door open to bring a breeze in. And it might be 2:00 in the morning, and mom and I would just sit and talk and prepare the meal and break the eggs and, you know, just get ready for dinner.

And I really, really miss that. I miss my mother so terribly. She was my best friend in the whole world. And Thanksgivings are just not the same since mom's been gone, but I do have that sweet memory of the two of us - just giggling and laughing and getting ready for dinner.

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CHIDEYA: That was commentator Betty Baye bringing us home.

We've all got stories to share. This time, we've heard from NEWS & NOTES contributors Robert Traynham, Julianne Malveaux, Jeff Obafemi Carr, Allison Samuels, William C. Rhoden, Patrice Gaines, Ron Christie and Betty Baye.

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That's our show for today. Thank you for sharing your time with us.

To listen to the show or subscribe to our podcast, visit our Web site, nprnewsandnotes.org - no spaces, just nprnewsandnotes.org. To join the conversation or sign up for our newsletter, visit our blog at nprnewsandviews.org.

NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

Tomorrow, new music from the Sounds of Blackness.

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CHIDEYA: Happy Thanksgiving. I'm Farai Chideya. This is NEWS & NOTES.

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