Just saying the word conjures up special images and memories for each of us.
Turkey and dressing. Pumpkin pie and Pilgrims. Football and family. Tryptophan and nap time.
In our home it goes without saying that Thanksgiving Day is my favorite holiday. My wife Debbie is an amazing cook, and usually Wednesday evening will find me getting anxious to smell the wonderful things she will prepare for our family. As always, we will have turkey and all the trimmings along with just about anything else one would expect to see at a Thanksgiving feast. Come to think of it, I believe I’ve already asked her 3 or 4 times if she has everything in the house for the big day.
Of course, she teases me that the only reason I like Thanksgiving so much is because I love all the great food on our table. I’ll admit to the food being a very special part of the day, but there’s much more to it than that for me.
Thanksgiving is a Heart Thing
As a young boy growing up in rural Ohio, Thanksgiving was a time for family. My family would spend days in preparation, making sure of every detail, right down to drying the bread for my mom’s stuffing. Once the big day arrived, our home would be packed with relatives who had made the journey from as far away as 50 miles (no small sacrifice in the early 60’s).
All my aunts and uncles, cousins, and even people who I had never heard of before would gather in our home. No one even thought of watching TV, even though if the weather cooperated we could bring in two and a half channels. No, Thanksgiving was for catching up on each others lives around our huge dinner table.
Instead, all of us kids would be sent to play outside until it was time for dinner, which gave me the opportunity to show off to my city cousins a life they didn’t know existed.
For instance, we used to stand corn stalks up to make what is called a corn shock. These were made in the shape of a teepee and were wonderful hiding places from my girl cousins (and annoying sisters).
From there I would take them on an adventure that rivaled any zoo they had ever seen. At our home we had cows, pigs, and chickens, none of which my city cousins had ever seen up close and personal. Boy, my cousins sure seemed to scare easily when they would hear a made-up story of how dangerous those animals were.
Back then, the men in my family always went hunting in the morning, returning just in time to eat dinner. How well I remember when I was deemed old enough to tag along with them. I had no gun, but it didn’t matter a bit because I got to be with my dad and uncles.
When at long last my mom would announce that dinner was ready, we would all head towards the kitchen. Since there were so many of us, the grownups would fix our plates and we would then sit at the “little table”.
I really disliked those little card tables because the only people sitting there were us kids, and all of us knew that the “big table” was the place to be. I remember every year asking if this was the year I finally got to sit at the big table. I got used to being told “NO”, but still I had to ask.
I can still see what had to have been the biggest turkey in the store resting on a huge platter. Spilling all around it was the stuffing that we had prepared all that dried bread for. A gigantic bowl of mashed potatoes, along with an even larger bowl of chicken and dumplings sat on one end of the table. Bowls of green beans, cranberries, gravy, and other yummy things I can no longer remember filled the rest of the table.
I can remember eating so much food that my relatives would tease me that I was going to blow up. I didn’t care because being a skinny kid I could eat as much of anything I wanted and never gain a pound (oh for those days!).
After we had finished eating our dinner it was time for dessert, and I’m here to tell you that I could eat some dessert, especially my aunt Laura’s chocolate pie. I can remember there being apple pies, peach pies, blackberry cobbler, raisin pie (my dad’s favorite), and of course aunt Laura’s chocolate pie.
Those wonderful memories are tucked safely away in my mind. Those carefree days of family and friends are never far from me, and at this time of the year I think of them often. Though the years have created separation and distance in my childhood family, those are some of the best years of my life.
I regret not having had the opportunity to enjoy more of those years, but as fate would have it my dad passed away when I was 12 years of age, and for all intents and purposes life was never the same after that. Therefore, those memories are indeed precious to me.
Today, of course, things are much different. Thanksgiving is largely thought of as a day off from work and the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. What a shame, because in the rush to buy someone something a lot of memories are not being made around the Thanksgiving dinner table.
It goes without saying that I am one of those that has a really hard time with seeing Christmas trees showing up in October, and as we get later and later into November the inevitable deluge of advertisements for Black Friday start showing up, as if we needed one thousand reminders a day.
Around my house I’ll be the one asking a hundred times “wait…what about Thanksgiving? Why doesn’t anyone think of Thanksgiving like they used to? Why is it so hard for us to celebrate the idea of thankfulness”?
So, while I am grateful for the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians celebrating the very 1st Thanksgiving way back in 1621, I can’t say that it was that event that sparked my love for Thanksgiving.
Neither was the Congressional resolution that resulted in President George Washington proclaiming Thursday, the 26th of November 1789 a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer” instrumental in instilling my love for Thanksgiving.
Even President Abraham Lincoln, who declared in 1863 that the last Thursday in November would become a federal holiday and a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens” isn’t responsible for my fondness of all things Thanksgiving.
While all those events are important in our nation’s history, the real reason that I love Thanksgiving is because in my mind I get to be that kid again. I get to be surrounded by the people who mean the world to me, and I get to add more memories to an already overflowing basket of thankfulness and gratitude gifted me by our Lord.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!