hey friends,

here’s a Thanksgiving essay I wrote a few years ago… hope you enjoy.


by Luke Asa Guidici

It was 2:30pm and the dough wasn’t even rolled out. And I was supposed to be there at 4pm. That wasn’t enough time to bake the pie, even if I had it made. I was already feeling nervous about going to Ana’s for Thanksgiving Dinner and meeting a bunch of new people. Having a good Apple Pie seemed like a great way to make my entrance, unfortunately I was having issues.

Somehow I’d thought that I didn’t really need wax paper to roll out the crust. At the pizza shop we just threw down some flour, smashed the dough and rolled it out with a big pin.

Easy, right? But it wasn’t working.

The dough now had so much flour in it that it felt like a rubbery old tortilla. I threw it away.

I mixed together the flour, oil, salt, and water and tried again. This time with a flattened cereal bag in place of wax paper. I rolled forward and flattened it, but as I rolled back the whole thing curled up like a slap-on bracelet. The pin, the dough, and the cereal bag were hopelessly stuck together.

“More flour…maybe that’s what I need.” I peeled the crust-to-be off, added more flour, and tried again.

This didn’t have the desired effect. Now only pieces of the crust stuck to the rolling pin.

It was now 3:15pm. Just enough time if the pie was completely assembled and I didn’t have to drive anywhere. But it wasn’t. And I did.

It was “ok” to be a little late, right?

Finally, I realized that stubbornness wasn’t an appropriate substitute for wax paper.

I headed to the corner store. It wasn’t actually on the corner and the only thing I’d ever bought there was Mexican Coca-Cola.

They had no wax paper.

Next was 7-11 – they have cooking stuff, right? Wrong.

Then the Latino Market. No luck.

Now I was getting really nervous. If I had to drive somewhere I was going to be really late. There was still one option, the Drug Store across the street.

They had it.

By 3:45pm I was back in my kitchen. It was amazing how easy the process was when I had the right tools. In almost no time I had the dough rolled out, the apple filling in, and the butter cinnamon topping on.

If it went in the oven now, I could still make it to Ana’s by 5pm.

The oven in my small Hollywood studio is probably about as old as the building, which is from the 50’s. It’s a small, 1/2 sized gas stove, without an electric igniter.

The way it works is that first you turn the oven on to the “light” setting. This starts the flow of gas into the oven. Next you hold a flame by the hole and when the flame “flickers” you know the oven has lit. Then you shut the door and turn the gas up to the desired temperature.

Not exactly an exact science.

I’d only lit the oven a couple of times. And both times my sister was there with me.

It took a couple tries of turning on the gas, trying to light it, it not lighting, turning the gas off, turning the gas back on, finally I saw it flicker. I held my hand inside and it felt warmer, so that must have meant it was on. I shut the door and went back to assembling the pie.

First I dripped melted butter over the top of the filling. Then I placed the top crust on and crinkled the edge. Using a butter knife I made a few slits on top so heat could escape. Finally I began to sprinkle the remaining sugar and cinnamon…


My heart jumped and then it was quiet.

I wasn’t sure what had happened. My heart pounded in my chest. I could feel adrenaline all the way down to my fingertips.

The door of the oven had blown open, but was that the only thing? A thought crossed my mind, “what if I blew up my apartment, would I know? Could I be dead and not realize it?”

I didn’t really know what it would be like if I were dead. I checked my pulse. I had one. But I could still see and hear, so that didn’t really prove anything. If I was dead and I would still see and hear, then it only stood to reason that I’d still seem to have a pulse.

The room seemed in order, there weren’t flames or charred marks anywhere. But once again, if I had blown up the apartment, and died instantly, would I know what the blown up apartment would look like? Or would I recreate the apartment how I remembered it?

I felt like I needed to talk to someone in order to prove I was still among the living. Most everyone from my apartment complex was gone for the Holiday. So I did the only thing I could think of, I called home.

The phone rang and rang…

“Hi, you’ve reached the Guidici’s. No one is here…”


I called my Mom’s cell phone. No Answer.

My Dad’s cell, nothing.

My Sister’s cell, no answer. This was getting ridiculous.

Oh right. Thanksgiving. Everyone’s at the Grandparents’ for dinner.

So I tried the phone again. This time I called my Grandparents’ number.

Strangely I wasn’t that upset. It was like I was resigned to the idea that I might have blown up myself and my studio. Heck, the entire apartment complex for all I knew.

Maybe I was a little in shock. But for some reason dealing with my mortality was easier than dealing with someone else’s; several month’s ago I had to do just that.

The whole family was in Boston to see my sister Teal graduate. After the ceremony, the dinner, and the fanfare, there was one more piece of family business to attend to.

I had to drive my Grandma to Cape May, NJ to visit her sister, Shirley. As if driving 370 miles through 4 states and New York City on unfamiliar roads with a 72 year old wasn’t stressful enough…there was a good chance this trip to visit Aunt Shirley was going to be her last.

Grandma’s older sister had been in a nursing home since her stroke. Since my Grandma lives on the West Coast…and doesn’t travel by herself, Teal’s graduation was probably the best opportunity she’d have to see Aunt Shirley. The most recent news we’d heard from her husband, Uncle Lou was that her health was “failing fast.”

At 4:30am we boarded the “T” and headed to the rental car facility at the airport; by 6am we were on the road. All in all it went pretty smooth. The number of toll roads was amazing. It seemed like every 10 minutes we were slowing down to throw 35¢ into a bucket. And a bridge? Forget about it. $5 if we were lucky.

After about 7 hours, we reached our exit and headed down a windy Cape May road.

The trees were green and full of leaves. There were bits of smashed clamshells on the grey pavement.

After a few wrong turns we found the building. A nondescript brick thing near the hiway.

I parked and as we walked towards the building said a quick prayer. Nursing homes aren’t the nicest places and our reason for being there wasn’t exactly a happy one.

The lobby looked more like an Eagle’s Lodge than a nursing home. Giant landscape paintings hung on the chestnut brown, wood paneled walls. A large hearthstone occupied one wall and a dark leather couch sat vacant to the side.

Uncle Lou had planned on meeting us there. But now he wasn’t answering his phone now, so Grandma asked the receptionist.

“Shirley Melchiore please.”

“She is in the recreation room.”

Well that sounded good.

As we walked down one hallway and into another, the rich browns gave way to pastels.

Sounds of music came from the recreation room. It sounded like karaoke, well maybe a cross between a wedding singer and karaoke.

As we walked into the recreation room, my heart sank. It was one of the saddest things I had ever witnessed.

I’ll start with the least sad, the singer was a mid-40’s man, slightly overweight. He had cargo shorts, a floral print shirt, and a comb-over.

He was singing into a mic hooked into a small PA. A CD boombox sat on the stage playing the music, on top of that, a toy hula girl danced.

Next was the room, this was obviously a big event here at the Seashore Care Center because the room was full. Old men and women watched the man perform songs from their youth, or from the looks of some, their middle age. Some seemed barely lucid, others asleep. A woman tapped her hand to the music, another danced as much as she could in her wheelchair.

I scanned the room from right to left. As I reached the far left side I saw my Uncle Lou. The last time I’d seen him I was 16 and he was pretty much exactly as I remembered. White hair combed back, a cream colored polyester shirt, white pants, and white dress shoes.

He smiled big and waved Grandma and I over. Next to him was a white haired old woman in a wheelchair. Her head was supported and she listed a little to one side. This was Aunt Shirley. Hugs were exchanged.

The singer finished up and began to pack up his gear. Residents slowly started to wheel out. Lou suggested we leave this room and go somewhere quieter where we could visit. I thought this sounded like a great idea.

Before leading us out, he walked around the room saying goodbye to a bunch of people. It was kinda odd to see, but it actually looked like he was “working the room.”

We walked down a hallway and then off to the side. I can’t really say where we went. I think those places are designed so everything looks the same. They have an almost casino like quality of trapping you inside. Only instead of flashing lights and gaudy games, there are Thomas Kinkades and pastel painted walls. We stopped and sat at the end of a hallway. It wasn’t Shirley’s room and I wasn’t really sure why Lou picked this spot.

Grandma sat close to her sister and held her hand. She and Uncle Lou talked about Shirley and her condition. Grandma talked to Shirley – and she responded! Not like you or I would, but it was a response nonetheless. It sounded like she was saying Grandma’s name. It was clear that she recognized her sister and was obviously excited that she was here. Uncle Lou said this was the most responsive she’d been since the stroke.

We talked more. It was a mix of talking about the family, talking about Shirley, and talking to Shirley. She continued to show interest and respond to a few things. It seemed strange that they’d discuss her condition right in front of her when it was obvious she could comprehend some things. I guess the whole situation was a little strange to me. Eventually Shirley started nodding off and Lou determined it was time for us to go. We walked her to her room and he called the orderlies so they could put her into bed. Grandma gave her sister a hug and kiss and said good-bye.

As we walked to the front of the building, Lou was cheerful. He greeted all the staff by name and with a big smile. Grandma and I were quiet.

Pastels gave way to wood paneling and once again we were at the front of the building. Uncle Lou remembered he had to ask a nurse something and quickly walked back to the nurse’s station.

My Grandma stood there silent, her head down. She sobbed softly. I walked over and put my arms around her. She leaned her head against my shoulder and cried. I held her tight and tried not to imagine myself in her position. I didn’t want to think of my sister or Mom or Dad…or her like this. I didn’t want to think about how one day, I would have to say “good bye.” My eyes grew wet, but I knew I needed to be strong. So I shut those thoughts out of my head. I could think about those some other day. Today I needed to be a man.

I told her how happy Shirley was that she was here. I told her it would be alright. And I told her that I loved her. Uncle Lou came back and I held up my hand, “just one more moment.”

Grandma gave me a little squeeze and lifted her head from my shoulder. I kissed her on the forehead.

That night we ate fresh seafood by the bay. The next morning we drove back to Boston.


The voice on the other line surprised me.


“Hi Grandma…”

The phone was passed around and Thanksgiving greetings were given. I made no mention of the explosion in my apartment, I didn’t see a reason to upset anyone. It felt good talking to my family. At least if I had blown myself up, I’d gotten to say good-bye.

Shutting the oven door, I looked around my kitchen. It was a disaster.

I decided to cook the pie at Ana’s. It was now 5pm and ghost or not, I was hungry.


Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Give someone you love a hug.


  • D
    Posted at 19:24h, 26 November Reply

    Every time I read this piece of yours I weep. What you have written is so profoundly beautiful. How you tell two stories at once. How poignantly you reveal your {and our} desire for relationship. Thank You.

  • Gwen
    Posted at 15:54h, 01 December Reply

    This is an incredibly beautiful essay Luke. Thank you for your courage to address such difficult life issues. And – what a great story teller you are!

  • Grama
    Posted at 17:42h, 04 December Reply

    Well here is that 72 year old lady, now 80, that you spoke about in your story. In my early years of baking, I too, had pie crust issues but soon discovered patching the holes in the bottom crust can be concealed quite nicely with the filling. What I want you to know about our trip to New Jersey, aside from paying the state enough money on the Jersey Turnpike to repave the darn thing for at least 50 miles, was how much I appreciated your taking me to see my sister. Not many young men would change their plans on short notice and brave New York, the traffic, the heat and the noise to make such a trip. That was the last time I saw her as she died shortly thereafter. That trip produced sad memories; but for the trip, I would have no last memories of her at all. So Luke, I love you and respect the fact that you didn’t mind traveling with this old gal. A gorgeous blond beside you would have made the drive much more exciting, I’m sure. By the way, how did the pie turn out? gma

    • Luke
      Posted at 10:40h, 12 December Reply

      I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. Love you too Grandma.

      (p.s. the pie turned out amazing!)

Post A Comment