Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving in Spain: trout on the menu

Grandpa Fred Breiner, with ever-present cigar. Richie, Danny, Mickey, and cousin Bobby Marcus. Maybe 1949.
PAMPLONA, Spain -- I do miss Thanksgiving. It is the best American holiday with the best memories for me. This year is the ninth that I have been outside the country. Again it is a work day -- department meeting, then coffee with a colleague who specializes in German philosophy and collects news clips about Bridget for me. Then grading 18 final projects from 75 students. Cindy has plans for trout for dinner.

Thanksgiving 1961, Bart Starr and Packers vs. Lions, Press-Gazette Archive
On Thanksgiving Day in 2006 I gave a lecture at the public university in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and walked out into the tropical heat and humidity, feeling really homesick. Along one of the main roads, the lame Santa Claus displays set against an inappropriate cultural background poisoned any warm feelings of nostalgia. Depressing, really, especially there, where the poor are really poor and the middle class lives in walled communities.

What I really needed to pick me up was a dose of the Lions vs. the Packers. For some reason, no one in Santa Cruz cares about that game. No TV, no John Madden, no family. If I had been at the Kuhns' in Columbus, we would have gone over to the neighbors' yard and played some pickup hoops in the driveway. Or in Cleveland, maybe a Turkey Trot or some hoops.

The Frowerks. Back row, Annie, Lena (our Grandma) and Bill. Front, Freddy and Joe. (Correct me on Bill and Joe.)

Frowerk House, Rowley Ave. in 2013, later leveled.
 Thanksgiving was always a trip to Grandma's house on Wilson Mills Road in Richmond Heights (a shopping mall was later built next door). Uncle Freddy was always there, and he played Parcheesi and Sorry and other board games with us. I knew he was a Jesuit brother, and that he had joined the order after his wife died in childbirth, but being dense and uncurious, I never realized that he was Grandma Breiner's brother. He was just Uncle Freddy.

That density and lack of curiosity extended to Aunt Annie Rooney and Uncle Howard (Annie, I figured out decades later, was Grandma's sister). And how could we forget Dolores, their daughter, and Dolores's daughter. It was considered at the time a major family embarrassment for an unmarried woman to have a child. Dolores later took over the Frowerks' family home on Rowley Avenue off Scranton Road (Grandma, Freddy and Annie grew up there); it was abandoned in the early 2000s and was leveled a few years ago.

On Thanksgiving in 2007, I was in Manchester, England, as the editor on the startup of a new business publication, Crain's Manchester Business (an offshoot of Crain's Cleveland, Chicago, etc.). We were in a rush to get the prototype out the door and launch in January. No time to even think about Lions-Packers. Then three years in Mexico, two in China, another in Mexico. Now Spain.

Street football, Armin Avenue, with the Big Boys in their matching hoodies, 1958. Timmy Speer at right.

Tim, right, breaks away from a weak attempted tackle by Jim in the Armin Avenue Coliseum, 1959.
Me at Grandma's 1958.
I think I might have missed Thanksgiving as a freshman at Wooster. We had classes the Wednesday before and the Friday after -- at least I remember getting a lecture from my French teacher about how we would be penalized if we skipped that Friday class. Frances Guille. She edited the diaries of Adele Hugo, Victor Hugo's daughter, which Francois Truffaut made into a movie, The Story of Adele H. Mme. Guille was a tough teacher.

But I digress. With age comes dotage, or at least anec-dotage. Every memory leads to a story that leads to another story that leads to another story...where was I? Oh, yes. At Grandma Breiner's on Wilson Mills Road, getting ready for tackle football in what seemed like an enormous backyard. We had to bring along a change of clothes to be presentable at dinner.

Aunt Pat, Dad's sister, was always a big fan of whoever was the winner at the time, and in the late '50s and early '60s, it was the Giants, Colts and Packers. Her husband, Sam Marcus, the legendary football star at John Carroll, would make knowledgeable comments about the players. Cousins Bobby, Patty and Terry Marcus joined us in games.

A laundry tub in the basement was filled with little bottles of flavored pop -- orange, cherry, root beer, cola -- floating in ice water. Turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes and gravy and apple pie.

I'll let you all fill in the rest...

1982 Turkey Trot with the Toners. Rich, Mike, Jim Toner, Joe Toner, me; Lainie and Tim in front.


Christmas in Santa Cruz
Thanksgiving season in Manchester England 
Bridget visits us for the holidays in Mexico 
Mexican kids dress up for Christmas season tradition
Thanksgiving in Beijing 
Christmas market in Essen, Germany
Columbus Day story: How he brought me to Spain
In Pamplona, they party like it's 1591

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