Memoir Contest Winner: Two Thanksgivings by Betty Rosenstein

by Matilda Butler on August 30, 2012

catnav-scrapmoir-active-3Post #190 – Women’s Memoirs, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

Announcing Memoir Contest Winner – Honorable Mention, Gratitude for Family Category

We all get caught up in the current-day events of both our lives and those of the world we live in. But this entry from our November 2011 Memoir Writing Contest will take you back in history, reminding you of an earlier time. By the end of this bitter-sweet story, I was thinking of all the lives affected in our current wars. Each of the stories we are publishing from our Gratitude Contest may touch you in a different way. We hope each of them will help you reflect on what you are grateful for.

Women’s Memoirs is pleased to publish today Betty Rosenstein’s memoir remembrance Two Thanksgivings.

Congratulations Betty on your award-winning story. Thanks for sharing.


By Betty Rosenstein
Most holidays have a certain informality to them when it comes to scheduling family get-togethers.  Birthdays and Christmas, even Halloween, are generally celebrated at the convenience of the hosts and their friends?whether parties are at homes or formal events in a public setting.  This is not true of Thanksgiving.  Since the dinner is the highlight of the celebration, guests are rarely late.  Unlike “Open House” parties where food may be served buffet style, carving the turkey is the moment nobody wants to miss.  This is especially true if one prefers a particular part of the bird.

Actually if I were to ask my family which holiday they most enjoyed, the answer would probably be birthdays and Christmas, rather than Thanksgiving.  This should come as no surprise, since those events involve parties with gifts?as well as good food.  To tell the truth, for me Thanksgiving celebrations are somewhat blurred in my mind, since we always enjoy the the similar traditional turkey with the anticipated side dishes, followed by a variety of desserts, usually brought by our guests.

memoir contest, memoir writing winnerThere is one Thanksgiving however, I will never forget.  Although my family and friends contributed food and merriment, for me it was a day filled with mixed emotions.  Everyone present did all that was possible to make the evening an enjoyable and memorable event and without doubt, our seven month old son added to the merriment.  Little Jerry’s infectious smiles and cute laughs, his willingness to be held by relatives and guests he barely knew, contributed to the pleasant holiday.

Yet, while our family and friends were celebrating a happy occasion, the United States was at war.  Along with other soldiers in action, my baby’s father was spending his days and nights in an icy cold trench, partially concealed in Germany’s snow-covered Hürtgen Forest, awaiting the next major attack from squads of advancing Nazi soldiers.

A welcome note from my husband the day before Thanksgiving described the holiday celebrations that he and his comrades anticipated.  Using his helmet as a desk, a stub of a pencil and a soiled piece of paper, he briefly described the Army’s preparation for the approaching event.  So there would be something pleasant to anticipate, Jerry and his comrades were told that on Thanksgiving Day, every soldier would receive a box lunch containing a turkey sandwich and a few surprise treats.  The troops were looking forward to their celebration and hoped the Nazis would not interrupt them with a surprise attack.  He sent his love and best wishes for our family’s holiday and the promise that next year we would celebrate Thanksgiving together. 

That note from the trenches was the last letter I received from my husband.  The next correspondence came from our Government:

“We regret to inform you that on Thanksgiving Day, following a major German attack extending throughout the snowy Hürtgen Forest, our troops were forced to retreat.  Your husband among others was Missing In Action.”

Apart from routine paperwork, that was the last personal letter I received from the Government.

Five years later, my five-year old son and I received another official notice from our Government.  The graves of two buried soldiers, victims of the Hürtgen Forest attack, had been confused.  However, everything was now clarified.  My husband was no longer listed as Missing in Action.  There was no longer any hope that he would be with us to celebrate the next Thanksgiving.  

Years have passed, and joyful as our Thanksgivings are, I cannot forget that my little boy’s father is not with us to share these happy events.  Yet, I also know that this particular holiday is a reminder to me, that before going overseas, on a brief furlough, he spent a few joyful days with our infant son.

Jerry bathed him, gave him a bottle and held him in his arms until he fell asleep.  At the end of the short visit, for the last time he hugged him, looked at his smiling face and said:  “Take care of your mother, son.”  Then he kissed him goodbye. 

Thanksgiving reminds me of those few precious moments we had together and for this I am grateful.

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