Published November 12, 2020 Bill Stanley, Special to The Times Thanksgiving is nearly here, and with it come great memories of family gatherings from years past. Over the years, Thanksgiving came to be my favorite holiday. There was no pressure to find appropriate gifts nor any reason to have to wake up early. Mom was a wonderful cook, preparing annual feasts of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, broccoli casserole, hot rolls and, of course, gravy that would cover it all. She would reach out in advance to everyone who was coming to dinner on Thanksgiving to ask what type of pie they’d like for dessert. When we arrived on Thanksgiving, she had prepared apple, cranberry apple, pumpkin, pecan and Boston cream pies to ensure that everyone at the table had the dessert they liked best. That was how Mom was – happy to do any amount of work to make her loved ones happy. In the early years, the family would drive up to Nasin’s Turkey Farm, which I believe was located in Baltic, to pick out the ill-fated Thanksgiving bird. As our dinner gatherings grew in later years, Mom would simply bring home a giant turkey from the grocery store. Regardless of the source, they were always delicious. Under the guise of wanting to help before dinner, I would loiter in the kitchen in hopes of getting first dibs on a sampling of stuffing or dark meat. Mom was on to me, however, and would shoo me into the family room. “Go watch football with you father!” she would order. “Dinner will be ready in a little while, and there will be plenty for everybody.” And so, Mom, her sisters Josephine DeSantis and Rose Perrone, and my sisters, Mary and Gigi, would prepare dinner and set the table. Dad and I would watch football with Uncle Jim Perrone while snacking on Auntie Rose’s zucchini squares and Auntie Jo’s meatballs. And no, the chauvinism of it all was not lost on the men. Mom, however, had her own way of running the kitchen operation before and during dinner, so the men and women adhered to our respective, traditional roles. Let the record show, however, that I would help clear the table and wash the dishes, pots and pans afterward. In addition to being with loved ones, the most important part of Thanksgiving is remembering what we are celebrating: the many wonderful things with which God has blessed us: being together with our families, good health, good jobs, comfortable homes, plentiful food, and our nation’s democracy. It is important to not only be thankful for our many blessings, but to pray for those who are less fortunate and to support those organizations that help and support the needy: the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut, Safe Futures, the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, Madonna Place, United Community & Family Services, the Visiting Nurse Association of Southeastern Connecticut, Child & Family Agency, the Katie Blair House, other local social services organizations, and, of course, our religious institutions and hospitals. I know some good souls who will spend part of the day helping out at a local meal center or doing some other type of volunteer work. Still others – like first responders, hospital employees and news media – must work part of the day. Be sure to thank them if you have the chance and to keep them in your thoughts and prayers. Sadly, Thanksgiving 2020 will be different. Out of concern for and fear of COVID-19, many families will have to stay apart on this special day. Some may be technologically creative and have virtual family meals, connected online, which I suppose is better than not being connected at all. Others will wear layers of clothes and don coats, hats, scarves and gloves to have Thanksgiving dinner outdoors or in a garage. Brrrrrrrr! No, thanks. Still, we will all be most thankful when this horrific pandemic is behind us and we can return to normal lives without the need for masks and social distancing. Regardless of your plans, please stay safe and healthy, enjoy quality time with loved ones if you can, eat and drink in moderation, and never let go of the true meaning of Thanksgiving – giving thanks and offering prayers for those who are less fortunate. Bill Stanley is a former reporter at The Day and vice president for development and community relations at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.