Tradition. The passing down of customs and beliefs from generation to generation. Tradition is felt in many homes this week as we prepare for Thanksgiving and venture into the holiday season. Families will reunite, students flocking home from college. We will cook, we will eat too much. We will enter our tryptophan comas. And we will feel the warmth and love, if we are lucky, of our families and friends.
Back in high school I was lucky enough to meet a group of boys, all one year older than me, that had a friendship between them I had never experienced or seen before. Perhaps it's that aspect of it, having never been a part of a large group like that that fascinated me. This was no small group. There were at least 13 - 15 of them. One was always with a few and vice versa. Or they were all together. But they were more than what we call acquaintances in today's world. These guys were as close as you can get. Many had known each other since grade school, many grew up together. But one fact was clear: they would be friends for life.
I dated a few of them, always feeling pretty special. Back in my days of being bullied I never dreamed of being a remote part of a group like this. Yet, I went to their parties, cheered them on at all the sporting events (they were all jocks and I was a pom-pon girl, enabling me to get to know them better) and when their class graduated, I was devastated. My senior year was a crashing bore without them.
During high school though, the boys got in the habit of meeting on Sundays to play touch football. What began back then has evolved into an annual Thanksgiving tradition, aptly named The Turkey Bowl that has now spanned nearly 40 years. To this day I have never and will never witness a group of friends with the love and devotion for each other that these boys, now men, have.
They went on to become lawyers, accountants, sports agents and engineers. Airline management, business owners and a myriad of other professions including our very own Chicago DJ, Eddie V of 104.3 FM. You know, Eddie of Eddie and Jobo. Yes, he is one of them! Yet, no matter what was going on in their lives there was always one constant: that every Thanksgiving morning between 8:30 and 9am, without fail, they would meet at the same field no matter in rain, snow, a blizzard, or whatever the weather, to be together and play football.
There is no need for communication. No one calls each other for reminders. It's a given. You just KNOW. This is a TRADITION. Bobby D. lives across the country. He could board a plane, no one being notified and just show up. He knows they will all be there. He knows he is welcome. He knows how good it would feel.
Over the years as "the boys" as I like to call the group have gone on to marry and have their own children. Those that have had sons bring them to the game which is now fathers v. sons. I'm sworn to secrecy who wins those games now.
Through this tradition not only have they had the chance to teach their children the values and well, the downright beauty of true friendship, they have also taught them what closeness could and should be like. How when you have friends, you cherish them, appreciate them and keep them for they are hard to find.
Two years ago at the prompting of a couple of them, I showed up at the Turkey Bowl. I felt like I was 16 again and there I was at a football game. They were muddy messes and nothing ever looked so good to me. They hung around, cooked hot dogs (a tradition started by one of their father in law's) drank beer and toasted to the Thanksgiving holiday and friendship. They raised an extra glass for one of their own that had passed that year.
I think about them every year at this time. I don't know if they ever realized how much I admired them or valued our friendship but by writing this I hope they do. So Happy Thanksgiving to The Boys. You've been an inspiration to me always and may your friendship be a shining example of what life should be about. And we could all take a lesson.
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