Thanksgiving ranks higher than perhaps Valentine’s Day, but not as high as Easter on the kid holiday scale where Christmas sits firmly at the top. Maybe it would score higher if there were presents involved – perhaps cornucopias filled with toys. As it is, Thanksgiving, or “Christmas Lite”, will likely remain that peculiar attendant satellite to December 25, content to kick off the “official” start of the season that by then is probably a little bruised by so many stores kicking it since August. Still, Turkey Day holds its own special appeal and a long history in my book of memories.
Back on Elm Street in the 1970s, there were only a few times each year when we had our meals in the dining room, and these were always special occasions. I recall one particularly unfortunate birthday dinner for my brother Jamie consisting mainly of squirrel. Scratch that. I recall a pile of tiny gray “chicken legs” and spitting buckshot into my napkin.
Various birthdays and ancillary holidays that manifested throughout the year were celebrated in feast form in that dark dining room, and I enjoyed them all save for the one squirrel affair.
Unless you had some form of advance warning radar, the only way we kids knew something was going on was when a little plate of gerkins and olives would appear on the buffet in the dining room. Or you might be tipped off by the extra six pack of 7-up in the back of the pantry hidden under a brown A&P bag. Hidden in the sense that putting your paws over your head is an effective dog camouflage maneuver.
Pilfering gerkins or the occasional roll before dinner is a cherished part of my Thanksgiving experience, as is sipping 7-up from the special gold glasses that were shaped like goblets, and sitting on the back steps and breathing in the sublime aromas from my mother’s kitchen. That’s the definition of anticipation, and that’s possibly where we’ve gone off-kilter in the years since.
In our anticipation of Christmas we sort of skipped over Thanksgiving, unwilling to live in that moment of expectation, to savor that now and instead jump right into the biggest holiday there is. It seems like we’re cheating ourselves out of something important.
Like memories of a family feast where the idea is simply to gather together and say thank you. The plates and silverware that you only see three or four times a year. Burning candle wax. That mysterious Essence that fills the room more than just the people gathered around the table.
Buckshot in your napkin.
But Thanksgiving isn’t just dinner. I am thankful for lots more. It’s also football, parades, and playing outside in the leaves. Here are some pictures to remind you what that feels like.