Pia Morelli loves Thanksgiving. It is the one holiday of the year that the Mendham mother of eight and grandmother of eighteen sees her entire family. Not even Christmas brings as many people to her home at one time.
“My children are scattered up and down the east coast. Between flying in and driving over, they need several days to make the trip, visit, and to return to their homes. I would love to have everyone here for Christmas, but that just doesn’t happen, especially when the holiday falls during the middle of the week and people are unable to take extended time off from their jobs.”
Since her husband, Joe, died in 1995 Thanksgiving has taken on an added meaning. “Prior to Joe’s death we would get together, but not under one roof or at the same time. We would see some of the children at Thanksgiving and the rest at Christmas or get together between the holidays. It wasn’t the same. Joe died suddenly and unexpectedly and each of my children have insisted on this annual reunion. What better time than Thanksgiving?”
While her family members would prefer to go out to eat, Pia insists otherwise. “I’m retired, living with Cocoa [her terrier] and have plenty of time on my hands. I start baking my pies on Sunday and by Wednesday the gravy, mashed potatoes, cole slaw, and green bean salad are done. On Thanksgiving morning, my daughter, Lisa, comes over and puts two turkeys in the oven. Joe Jr. and his wife bring the hams, while the stuffing and other fixings are completed by me in the morning. All the setting up, serving and cleaning up is done by the children. I kick back and watch football while eating pumpkin pie!”
Kyle McGathry will be continuing a tradition that has been going on in his family for nearly 50 years. With sons Kevin and Michael in tow, McGathry will be sitting in the stands watching a high school football game between Ridgewood and Paramus. “When I was a kid, it was Ridgewood-Fair Lawn. Years later Paramus replaced Fair Lawn and for awhile it was Bergen Catholic and Ridgewood.” The Ridgewood native looked at the Ridgewood- BC rivalry as hopelessly one sided. “Most of the games were never played on Thanksgiving because it was a given that BC would still be alive in the playoffs and would have just played the Saturday before. I think we had to wait until Saturday and it usually meant that Ridgewood was massacred.”
At this point in the season, Ridgewood is still alive in the playoffs with a scheduled meeting against Morristown on December 6th at Giants Stadium. “I know that Ridgewood just had a big battle with Hackensack on Saturday, but I think they’ll be ready. Funny thing, I think this is one Ridgewood team that could beat BC!” After the game, McGathry will be going to his mother-in-law’s house in Paramus. “My wife graduated from Paramus a year after I graduated from Ridgewood. She isn’t much of a football fan and stays home with our youngest. Fortunately, the rivalry isn’t dividing our family,” he noted.
Anne Chomesky doesn’t “do” Thanksgiving at least in the traditional sense. For years the single 40-something woman served food at a soup kitchen in Newark every Thanksgiving day. This year she will still be serving, but over at a friend’s house in Cedar Grove. Her friend, Clare, lost her father, who was her only living relative, this past Summer and Anne felt that she could be more useful spending the time with her. “The holiday season is very difficult for those without family. Clare’s father died in June and he was all that she had as far as family goes. Eight of us who either no longer have family or can’t be with them will be gathering together at Clare’s home to keep her company and to give thanks for what we do have. I thank God for this opportunity to be with friends who have become like family to me.”
However, wherever and with whomever you choose to spend the day, Happy Thanksgiving to all!
This article originally appeared on Townstead.com, a defunct site managed by Matt Keegan. It was part of his “Life in New Jersey” series of articles.