I was in the car driving Miss Cathy over to my brother’s for Thanksgiving; it was quiet so I turned on the radio to pass the time. NPR was in the middle of an interview with an author (I didn’t catch his name or the title of his book) who was from a family of ten children and even though they grew up in great poverty each child went to college, became successful and distinguished themselves in many different fields.
The radio host, Diane Reims asked to what did he attribute his and his siblings’ dedication to education and life accomplishments. The author said that their mother, a woman who had very little schooling herself instilled in them a passion for learning and was the reason they were all so successful.
Upon hearing this I looked at Miss Cathy seated in the backseat through the rearview mirror and said, “Hey, they could be talking about you.”
To which she responded, “Well, where was the daddy?” “Doesn’t he deserve any of the credit?” “Makes me sick how it’s always the mother that gets all the praise.”
“Oh my, the dealer passes”, I thought to myself. Instigating a rant about how fathers don’t get enough credit for their offspring’s success was not my intent. Listening to the author reminded me how much my brother and I owe Miss Cathy. I was just trying to pay the old bird a compliment as we were stuck in traffic on our way to eat a bird of the Butterball variety.
I tried to interrupt to remind her that I trying to give her a compliment but it was too late; she was already in full career. But, like so many conversations I have with her these days you never know what she’s going to say or how long she’s going to stay on topic.
I have learned that her ‘’default’ response is something negative (see exchange above for proof). I took a detour off t Interstate 95 (it can take you from Maine to Florida to see grandma and that’s apparently what everyone was doing that Thanksgiving morning).
The rest of the ride was pleasant; I’d switched to the classical station for the duration of the drive to avoid any further conversation.
Thanksgiving dinner at my brother’s had become a tradition for years after my Pop died as it was the last time the entire family had been together before he died in 1998. We didn’t come over last year because Miss Cathy just didn’t want to leave home so it was nice to all be together again, even if it was just for a couple of days.
As always, my sister-in-law, Suemi set a beautiful table worthy of a photo spread in Food &Wine magazine. We all took our usual places at the table, assigned long ago; Tony and Suemi at the ends, Nile across from me and Zachary across from Miss Cathy with Tony on her right. After the prayer led by my mother we began the meal. The meal started and we’d all begun to fill our plates and bellies with all the traditional goodies in front of us. We were chattering along, nothing memorable or of great consequence, just the typical conversations families engage in when they’re all together for a holiday when all of a sudden Miss Cathy started to sing,” what so proudly we hail from the twilight’s last gleaming”.
When she got to the end of the stanza she wasn’t sure of the next line so I started singing along, feeding her the words, encouraging her to continue. So she sang on, this time louder and with more confidence, her voice clear and surprisingly melodic.
Tony joined in and soon the three of us were singing as the other looked on smiling. Tony nodded for Zach and Nile to join in and Suemi did as well, the entire family singing what we remembered of he Star Spangled Banner:
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming
And the rockers’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air
Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave
When we finished I led the applause. It was a wonderful, corny, spontaneous movie moment, out of nowhere and out of context. A lot like my life living with Miss Cathy; unexpected and full of surprised-just without the singing usually.