Thanksgiving in America

Without a doubt, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  I love the meaning of it – taking a day to examine the multitude of invisible gifts we are given every day.  Breaking bread – sharing our bounty…that’s how it started back before we were the US.

Even if American football tries to take the spotlight, I can ignore them.  It’s a tradition the greeting card companies and retail industry have not managed to turn into a “buy, buy, buy” holiday.  That is tomorrow – “Black Friday.”  I’ve always thought that was a perfect moniker for a national day of planned rioting at the retail outlets, spending more than you have, buying things for those who won’t remember them three days later – generally getting into the Christmas spirit.  I’m not sure why we don’t consider it the American version of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona.  Same goal – try not to be trampled or gored by other shoppers racing for some game or toy – or TVs for the “adults.”

The only thing I remember buying for Thanksgiving was food – wonderful fat turkeys (do NOT mention “tofurkey” to me), corn stuffing with plenty of sage, mashed potatoes, yams, green bean casserole, ambrosia…ending with the pies.  Pecan, pumpkin….oh, the pies!  I’m not sure the Native American Indians and the Pilgrims had as much food on the table – but one of the things I’m grateful for is the tradition they started.  OK, President Roosevelt actually made it a National holiday, but he got the idea from the Pilgrims and Natives – didn’t he?  There aren’t songs dedicated to the day, but I’d like to nominate, “America the Beautiful.”

The funniest story in our family’s memory is, “Mother & the Butcher” Thanksgiving.  Many, many years ago my mother shopped for her turkey at a small, local butcher shop/general store.  The owner of the store – Mr. Bodiford – lived only a few blocks away from our house.  My mother put the turkey in the oven, as she had done for many years.  There seemed to be no problem.  As the wondrous aromas drifted out of the kitchen, she would occasionally open the door to baste the bird.  Again, no apparent problems – everything was going as it always had.  It was only when she removed the golden brown, juicy main course that panic ensued.  A shriek!  “OH NO!”

What could have happened?  “I can’t believe this,” my mother wailed.  WHAT?  WHAT HAPPENED?

She goes straight for the phone and calls Bodiford (our nickname for the grocery store owner).  “YOU SOLD ME A TURKEY WITHOUT A BREAST!”  I’m sure he didn’t need a phone to hear her.  He was incredulous – what could she possibly mean?  He had to come over.

In the meantime, there are other supposedly intelligent people who think my mother got a turkey with no breast.  I guess no one checked it out.  We waited for Bodiford.  He arrived, let himself in the front door and went immediately to the oven.  He opened the door, pulled out the roaster and says, “Frances, you’ve got the bird upside down!”

She never, ever had another Thanksgiving when one of us didn’t ask her, “Does this turkey have a breast?”  I guess we conveniently overlooked the fact that not one of us noticed the stupid thing was topsy-turvey.

I have many fond memories of Thanksgiving.  When I was a young woman living in Tennessee and couldn’t make it home to Texas, I got together with other friends who couldn’t go home for whatever reason.  We called ourselves the Thanksgiving Orphans.  It was probably some of the best times I had – going to a trendy restaurant, drinking wine and champagne, laughing and dancing in the evening.  Good friends, good time, warm memories.

Our family goes in many directions at Thanksgiving now.  Kids are grown with their own families.  I am looking forward to a few days with no work to stress over, reading, catching up on some DVDs, and perhaps sending a few postcards!  It’s truly my last weekend before the reality that Christmas is only weeks away comes crashing down upon my head.  A few days before full-tilt dread and panic firmly take hold of my psyche.  But I won’t think about that yet.

Although Thanksgiving is overshadowed by the witches and demons of Halloween and the gift-driven, manic observance called Christmas, it holds its own in my book.  I love that it is a time for reflection.  Maybe it’s a time to listen to an outstanding version of “Amazing Grace,” or a piece of music that moves your soul.  Perhaps those of you in the US will spend the day volunteering at shelters or community Thanksgiving celebrations.  Perhaps you’ll watch the football game.  Perhaps you’ll have an afternoon with your loved ones.

Somewhere in there, though, you will probably take at least a moment to remember those who aren’t with you any longer, those who have an illness far greater than you think a person can bear, or simply friends in another city, state or country who quietly make a difference in your life.  Just think of them and say, “I’m thankful for their role in this drama I call my life.”

For my family and friends – Happy Thanksgiving!

Giving Thanks



~ by Wheeler on November 24, 2011.

3 Responses to “Thanksgiving in America”

  1. Us Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October. Although many, many Thanksgivings have come and gone in our family, this year was very poignant, it was the first Thanksgiving without Mummy. It felt different as we all held hands around the table, saying grace and not hearing my Mom say “I am so grateful that all my children have grown into compassionate adults, may God smile upon them.” She had said that since I was 16, some 40 -odd years ago. I was truly grateful this year, more so than ever, to belong to such a wonderful family. I hope my friends in the US have a wonderful Thanksgiving and give thanks for the wonderful people in their lives.

    Michelle, your essay about Thanksgiving is just outstanding. Send me a piece of pie.

    Kindest regards.

  2. I hope you or someone in your family keeps that wonderful prayer as part of your tradition. What a beautiful comment.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  3. What a funny story!!! i also can’t believe the whole time your mom was basting the turkey she didn’t notice it “had no breast”. we are game watchers in my family and i’ll never forget the Cowboys game that turned into a skating exhibition when we had an ice storm.
    the stories and the memories are the true treasures.

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