Thursday, May 24, 2007

I remember Thanksgiving Monday

Every Monday before Thanksgiving, I used to take a trip to St. Mary’s Church, my family’s parish, and help collect turkeys. Not live ones, of course. The church would have, and still has, a frozen turkey drive, where people could donate food to bring to food pantries in Passaic and Newark.

I would head down to St. Mary’s with my dad, and people would be still arriving with last minute donations of turkeys, canned goods, stuffing, and other seasonal staples. There was always a feeling of friendliness, and everybody seemed happy, if also a little rushed and stressed, what with Thanksgiving preparations and all. The other volunteers at the church would greet us, and we would get down to work, sorting what went to the different destinations. I would just try not to get in the way, and help out whoever told me they needed a hand. It was nice.

Then, there was the loading. Frank, a friend of my dad’s, had a trucking company, and he would bring down a truck, which would get stocked to the gills with the goods. We, the volunteer crew, would start up an assembly line, and pack up the truck. And soon, phase three would be ready to roll. The delivery. I would usually ride down with my dad in the Taurus, follwing the truck, and we would head to our drop-off spots, downtown Passaic and Central Ward Newark.

These places, when I was a kid, seemed like another world from my little town of Rutherford. They were big, dark, and kinda scary. They were so different. Driving up Springfield Avenue in Newark in the late 80s was quite an experience. Newark hadn’t started its “rebirth” yet, and there were endless vacant lots with garbage-can fires, drug dealers on corners, and people hanging out in front of broken-down buildings. But, when we got to St. Anne’s church, everything was OK. Juanita, our greeting committee, was always there to meet us. Seeing her livened everything up.

We would unload all the bags, chat for a while, and hope back in the car. And head back to the suburbs. Back to the world we came from.

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