I grew up in a traditional family that by most standards celebrated a traditional Thanksgiving.
It was near or close to the Norman Rockwellian depiction on the cover of Saturday Evening Post; at least that’s how I envisioned it as a youngster. There was a mom and a dad, two sisters and me, gathered around the dining room table eating the traditional food.
Ah, yes, the dining room table. We had space to move – no crowding around the table in the kitchen as we did with most every other meal.
Of course as a kid, I didn’t have to do anything in the way of food preparation. All I had to do was come to the table when called.
And, I think what made this holiday seem so special to me was getting out of school on the Wednesday before the big day, and while in reality we only had a two-day “vacation,” it was the first break we had had since school began September.
Speaking of school, we always sang a Thanksgiving ditty that won’t leave my mind, no matter how hard I try to exorcise it. Surely, we all remember “Wilt heden nu treden” written in 1597 by Adrianus Valerius to celebrate the Dutch victory over Spanish forces.
Oh, probably not, but thanks to a guy named Theodore Baker, who in 1894 put the English lyrics to what we know today as “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing; he hastens and chastens His will to make known,” etc. Ugh!
As time went on, though, my so-called traditional Thanksgiving became less so. Things change. That’s the nature of life.
People get married and move on, as did my sisters, and people die as did my parents and my wife’s mother, who for many years worked so hard to keep the tradition of Thanksgiving as traditional as possible.
Without family, especially a large family, holidays in general and Thanksgiving in particular lose much of their luster.
I remember one year, with just the two of us, we decided why cook a Thanksgiving feast that takes hours to prepare, minutes to consume and even more hours to clean up? We ended up having oven-baked chicken, potatoes, etc. It worked, but it didn’t feel the same.
Thanksgiving soon became a holiday to dread rather than one to eagerly await.
It was several years ago when the Observer-Reporter and WJPA radio launched the 2,000 Turkeys campaign, which frankly put this holiday into perspective.
There were families who gathered together to ask the Lord’s blessing for enough food to put on the table. Organizations like 2,000 Turkeys and the City Mission have come through big time to help feed those who could not afford to buy a turkey.
As for me and my wife, family took on a surprising twist when my cousin, Bill Allison and his wife, Colleen, invited us to their house one Thanksgiving several years ago.
I can’t remember whether it was Bill or Colleen, but one said it was important for family to be together. Little did they know that such a small gesture had such a lasting impact.
Since then we have alternated houses for the dinner, sharing food with Colleen’s mother and sister, and uncles and cousins no longer with us.
Thanksgiving is indeed a time to be together, not to be measured by how much food is on the table but how much love is around it.