‘The Last Waltz’ and other Thanksgiving rituals snuck up on me

It’s scary sometimes how the mind works. Mine, anyway.

When Michelle came home from work the other night carrying cameras, backpacks and other tools of the photography trade, I greeted her at the door with, “Take a load off!”

It’s not a phrase I use often, and the words surprised me. My brain immediately:

* fired up the chorus of  “The Weight” by The Band.

* sent up a flare that Thanksgiving’s a week away. I associate The Band with the holiday, because its farewell concert, “The Last Waltz,” took place Thanksgiving night 1976 in San Francisco.

* flipped my heart to the nostalgic/melancholy setting. I grew up listening to The Band, and sang “The Weight” to my three boys at bedtime two decades ago. We try to watch “The Last Waltz” documentary every Thanksgiving, but my middle son won’t be home until Christmas.

* conjured images of The Band’s Levon Helm, who died in 2012. Levon had a successful second act, an artistic resurgence after bankruptcy, throat cancer and other hard knocks. My oldest son caught Levon and his band at a small club in Silver Spring, Md., shortly before Levon became too ill to play anymore.

I’m convinced I uttered “Take a load off!” the other night because my subconscious or unconscious mind has been hard at work. My synapses have been processing the coming of Thanksgiving, the falling leaves and snow, and impending family rituals (including my sons’ annual Reunion Bowl football game with their high school buddies).

I haven’t been listening to Levon or The Band lately, but that’s going to change. I have the high-tech wonders of YouTube on my screen and the low-tech awesomeness of the turntable in my basement.

Take a load off? I do believe it’s time.

My sons' Reunion Bowl football game is a Thanksgiving weekend ritual

My sons’ Reunion Bowl football game is a Thanksgiving weekend ritual. This is Reunion Bowl VI in 2011.


About Jim McKeever

Writer, father, runner, advocate based in Central New York.
This entry was posted in cancer, Children, family, Irish Investigations, music, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to ‘The Last Waltz’ and other Thanksgiving rituals snuck up on me

  1. chmjr2 says:

    Have a great Thanksgiving. I love this holiday. The very idea of a day to stop and give thanks gives me hope and helps me sort out what is important in my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My head needs to go back to those times too. Lived near Woodstock — the village — for a long time. In an ashram.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jim McKeever says:

    Martha, that must have been quite a time in your life!


  4. markbialczak says:

    Happy Thanksgiving, my friends (Michelle, too, of course). I dig your family traditions regarding The Band, “The Last Waltz” and memories of the great Levon Helm. Jim, have you ever gone to our local version up at the Palace? Stacey Waterman stages an all-star ensemble, top-notch, really great. “Salt City Waltz” is the Saturday night after Thanksgiving. You can find it on Facebook. The Band’s horns are joining the Syracuse cast this year. Thought you’d like to know.


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