I love Thanksgiving Day!
My childhood memories of Thanksgiving are all positive. It was always a day of great comfort and brought about in me a feeling of well-being unmatched by any other holiday. My Mom baked a turkey with stuffing. Mom made the best stuffing. She would make a well in my mashed potatoes and fill it with turkey gravy. There were always four to five vegetables to choose from, but I only had to eat one. Most years, I masked the taste of squash with cranberry sauce and cleaned my plate with a hot roll soaked in butter. I would then take a little time to recoup before attacking the pies. Pumpkin pie, apple pie, and lemon meringue pie attracted the adults. I was partial to my Mom's chocolate cream pie and banana cream pie.
Thanksgiving was not just a meal and not just a day. Thanksgiving brought with it a sense of euphoria for which I waited in anxious anticipation. We ordered the turkey from one of the local farms weeks in advance. It was a special treat for my brother and I to take our wagon to pick up the "fresh-killed bird." Our house smelled special from Wednesday night through bedtime on Thursday. The kitchen was abuzz well before I would awake. The division of labor heaped work on my mom and left me time to play.
My Mom liked to bring a portable television into the kitchen to watch the parades as she prepared our feast. The dinner itself was a flash in time. Mom never seemed to mind that the males at the table showed scant appreciation before jumping from the table to entertain themselves in one of many trivial activities. She knew we all would be back. Later, Mom would make me a hot turkey sandwich, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy that I would wash down with at least one cold, tall glass of milk. Where I put all this food remains a mystery. Exhausted, I would go to bed loved, feeling loved, and looking forward to another day off from school.
According to American folklore, the origin of Thanksgiving was a feast held in 1621 and shared by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags, and that Abraham Lincoln later nationalized the tradition. Of course, people of virtually all cultures have had special days of thanks for the harvests they reap and the bounties that sustain life. The specific traditions of Thanksgiving Day may be ours but the idea of giving thanks and showing appreciation appears universal. Much of that appreciation, including our own, derives from the superstition and fear that not giving thanks would result in the loss of that bounty. One of America's most enduring myths is that the Pilgrims came to America to escape religious persecution. They did that by leaving for the religious tolerance of Holland. Intolerance of diversity drove them to leave the Dutch culture and come to the Americas. Many individuals, Mary Dyer for one, fell victim to that intolerance. The truth is often more interesting than the fiction but we prefer to glorify the past, and in doing so we fail to learn the lessons of history.
No matter its origins, I love Thanksgiving. I see one enduring tradition to America's Day of Thanksgiving, the love that we as parents have for our children. My Mom had it for me. My wife and I have it for our daughter and son. I have much to be thankful for this Thursday and every day. Those of us so blessed should strive to remember that blessing every day.
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