thanksgiving overload: food & family make a full community

Starting on November 20, I endured three Thanksgiving parties and four Thanksgiving dinners. The first party I went to was at the TD Boston Garden on November 20th, from 1 – 4 pm. They had their 17th annual Thanksgiving party for homeless people and low-income individuals and families. While hundreds of people were being served turkey with all the trimmings, they had a singing group called Groove Harmony performing several old-school songs from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. The members of the group, Dennis, Eddie, Joy, and Andy, sounded almost like the original singers— Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell, Lou Rawl, The Temptations, Candi Stanton’, The Platters, The Spinners and The Chi-Lites. People enjoyed seeing friends they hadn’t seen in a long while and they enjoyed the meal, music and dancing. Most people left by 3:45 pm, so security didn’t have to try to rush people out so they could help the volunteers clean up. Everybody acted like they had no worries for the moment. It was just respectful homeless and low-income individuals and families from all different races and ethnicities enjoying themselves for the day.

The second party I went to on November 20 was held at The Hynes Convention Center from 6 – 9 pm. Fred Spearman, vendor of Spare Change News, enjoyed the party with me. This was the second time I’d gone to the Boston Living Center’s Celebration of Life Thanksgiving Party at The Hynes Convention Center. This was the 20th year that they’ve held this party for their clients and their friends and families. I had to relax a little after being at the TD Boston Garden party earlier in the day. We just missed the beginning of a HIV information session that was given before the party. Hospitals, clinics, and other organizations such as the Victory Programs nonprofit gave out information about how to prevent getting HIV or AIDS and gave out free samples of condoms and lube. They also provided information about where to get tested and treated for HIV/AIDS and where to get services if you were infected. The speakers gave us facts about how new cases of HIV/AIDS are being reduced because of new medications and people’s increased awareness of how to prevent contracting the disease.

Next, we had The Boston Gay Men’s Choir sing several songs from the Broadway musical “RENT,” and a drag queen named Miss Lakeiya Mondell sang a J Lo song with her backup singer/dancers while the actual J Lo video played on the huge screens to the side of the stage. After a quick costume change, she came back to do a second song. To speed things up, two more speakers gave brief speeches and a prayer, and then dinner was served. My stomach couldn’t take a second Thanksgiving meal of turkey with all the trimmings. After eating, I went up to burn some calories, dancing on the dance floor with the other partygoers. A DJ that The Boston Living Center hired played “Steppin’”, by R. Kelly, and DJ Casper’s hit song, “The Chacha Slide,” along with several pop artists’ songs. A young boy about 8 years old stole the show from the adults who were dancing. He breakdanced his heart out to songs by Chris Brown, LMFAO, and several other artists. Some songs I recognized, some I didn’t, but it would take too long to list all the songs that the DJ played. People had fun at the event. I hope that next year, Fred will go again.

The third Thanksgiving dinner I attended was at home. I live in a Victory Programs home, and it was nice to meet some of my neighbors that I don’t see often and have a nice meal with them. We had our building meal at 2 pm on November 21. There was no music or anything fancy, just fun amongst friends new and old. After our dinner, I started making the turkey, stuffing and pies for my own family. My son Joshua and his father Fred came over for dinner and we had a ball on Thanksgiving Day. I made eight pies; two sweet potato, two pumpkin, two apple and two pecan. One pecan pie was sugar-free for Fred, since he’s a diabetic. I substituted Sweet’ N Low for brown sugar and corn syrup. If you want any of my recipes, let me know!

The third party I went to was at the Pine Street Inn Women’s Shelter on Thanksgiving Day. I arrived a little bit before 11 am I checked my coat; they ask you to put anything of value in their coat closet, to keep things from being stolen. Joyce, one of the night workers, was in charge of the coats and valuables. She had a gentleman named Kevin helping her take care of everything. Before people started eating, we were entertained by a DJ named Peter. Pine Street Inn Women’s Shelter always has Peter provide music for their parties at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Earlier this year, he whipped the ladies into a frenzy for the Spring Fling party, too. As usual he had everybody dancing and enjoying themselves. The party lasted from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jennifer Payne, the daytime advocacy supervisor, her boss, Kathy Green, and Maryanne, the former daytime advocacy supervisor, had just as much fun as the guests did. Kathy Green introduced Maryanne to everybody as a setup before the meal was served. This year, Maryanne also brought her niece and three of her niece’s friends to help out for Thanksgiving and to help entertain the guests at the shelter. Her niece played “Edelweiss” on her violin, and then they all sang “Edelweiss” together. Finally, all the guests of the shelter joined in, and good, bad or indifferent singers came together as one voice. Maryanne then said grace and the food started flowing. More turkey with all the trimmings, and also apple cider, soda, coffee, juice, tea and water for choices of drinks.

After the party at the Pine Street Inn Women’s Shelter, I headed over to Rosie’s Place to see what was happening and to see if we could take pictures of the staff and record them partying. We were told that it wasn’t allowed unless we went through their media person. We were told to talk to their media person about Christmas, when they’ll be having a big dinner again to celebrate the holiday. Last year, I had a picture of Robert Kraft and myself taken at Rosie’s Place for Thanksgiving Day. Robert Kraft is the CEO of the Kraft Group and the owner of the New England Patriots. He had volunteered last year and helped serve the ladies lunch for Thanksgiving. I was hoping to see him again this year or somebody equally interesting, but that didn’t happen. There was no major party, and the ladies were served Rosie’s Place’s traditional meals. Nevertheless, Rosie’s Place served good food. Breakfast was served at 8 am. The menu included quiche Lorraine, turkey sausage, grits, bagels and cream cheese and fresh fruit. Brunch is at noon and there was chicken wings, spanakopita, scallops wrapped in bacon, shrimp cocktail, vegetables and dip and fresh fruit. Dinner was served from 4-7 pm and was roasted turkey with stuffing and gravy, candied yams, peas and carrots, cranberry sauce, and finally frozen yogurt on top of warm apple pie for dessert. There was no DJ like last year and nobody played music on the stereo, but the ladies at Rosie’s Place still had fun just being around their friends and family for the holiday.

To finish off Thanksgiving week, my family enjoyed the turkey and stuffing I’d made along with some of the pies. Fred took home his pecan pie and shared it with a friend. Our son Joshua took back a sweet potato and a pumpkin pie to his godmother’s home. I was told to make his favorite ice cream pie for Christmas or he’d never talk to me again. Which in teenage language means; “I won’t speak to you for a week. You’ll just get nods and grunts or sighs out of me as a sign of giving you the cold shoulder.” I had run out of food stamps, so I hadn’t made him a banana ice cream pie the way I’ve done in the past few years when I wasn’t homeless or when I was temporarily housed at Rosie’s Place. But I’ll try to make him one for Christmas.

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