Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving - "these Things I Remember , , ,"

 Where Thanksgiving began for me - 1755 West 75th Place, Chicago 60620
Psalm 42:4

These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.
Thanksgiving is very special and it always has been.

I am blessed to be teaching again after two decades of helping to raise funds at Leo High School.  One of the classes that I teach at Brother Rice is Old Testament.  I got into teaching through the religion department at Bishop McNamara in Kankakee in 1975.  The education circle of my life has closed, but loops off in a new directions as life has a habit of doing. Old Testament passages are not set-pieces but living reminders of God guiding the way to better living.

The Book of Joshua which my guys are reading over the five day break from classes is not just a chronicle of battles and Jewish ninja operations in the land of Canaan, but path to the pattern fulfilled by Joshua bar Joseph, during reign of Tiberius Caesar in Roman occupied Judea (formerly known as Canaan).  This Joshua ( Jesus in Arameric) explained the Covenant - thou shall not kill also means to love your enemies.  And the walls come tumbling down.

I used to come home from Kankakee for Thanksgiving on Greyhound and Amtrack, until I could afford a car.  I'd carry my banjo and guitar with my changes of clothes, because I would be playing Irish tunes with my cousins at Reilly's Daughter in Oak Lawn on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and maybe Saturday ( unless Boz got sick of us and hired Berwyn Moose).

I'd take the the CTA from 95th & the Dan Ryan to Oak Lawn, where my folks had moved from Little Flower.  Little Flower was where all of my Thanksgiving begins.

We lived in a Georgian at 1755 W. 75th Place with a tiny kitchen, but a pretty substantial dining room.  Relatives came and we ate like we were going to the chair.

  • Turkey with Sage and Sausage Stuffing
  • Baked Sweet Potatoes with marshmallows
  • Turnips
  • Green Bean  casserole 
  • Swedish Potato Sausage from the Swedish Deli at 76th & Bishop
  • Mashed Spuds
  • Cranberry Sauces (canned for kids and real for human beings)
  • Milk from Hamilton Dairy at 75th & Paulina
  • Sparkling Burgundy from Sol's Liquors at 79th & Marshfield
  • Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie and Apple Pie
Before all of that Mom would take us to morning Mass at Little Flower along with our neighbors, while Dad finished his shift at Illinois Medical Hospital.

We would be reminded of everything we should be thankful for - 
  • Our Country - we beat it out of Ireland
  • Our Faith -we have been Catholic for thousands of years
  • Our Freedoms - we had no one telling us who we were
  • Our Health - kids rarely died of anything anymore
  • Our Wealth - about that!
Yeah, we were loaded!  Dad worked three jobs with the State, the Beverly Theatre and David Berg packing house in Pilsen.

We really were loaded. We had everything!

Dad and his brothers fought for our freedom to practice our religion in this great country where we could go to the dentist, Dr. Anthony and eat real food from National Tea, Kroger, or the Jewels and make a future for ourselves. 

In the 1970's I'd make almost as much money playing Irish tunes with my cousins, Whitey O'Day and the inimitable Terry McEldowney than I would in two weeks of teaching religion and English at Bishop Mac.  I'd feast at the house in Oak Lawn, grab my instruments and head up to Reilly's Daughter and in the late 1970's I would be accompanied by the beautiful red head who would marry me and mother three beautiful children.

The loops of the circles in life would take me and mine from Kankakee to LaPorte and Griffith, Indiana and back to the south side of Chicago.  My children are wonderful adults now and their mother is home with Christ, my Dad and hundreds of Gunkels, Donahues, Hickeys, Brennans, Winters, Murphys, Garveys, & etc.

For that and this Thanksgiving Day, I shout "With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival."

1 comment:

Cathy McGonigal said...

This is so beautiful, Pat. Like you, God has led me along many seemingly divergent paths,until they all converged. Great-great and great-grandparents also 'beat it out of Ireland'. Grew up on the Southside...Brainerd, St Ethelreda, Hometown at its inception, Our Lady of Loretto, then far south to Chicago Heights, St Joseph's in nearby Homewood, and member of "The Founding Four', first four classes at the newly built Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights. Retired from nursing and as Director of the federal WIC program for my county in Indiana. Currently Director of Religious Education at a very small parish in North Central Indiana. But Southside Chicago, its neighborhoods, people, and sweet, sweet memories are the foundation of my life and made me the person I have become.