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November 19, 2004

In praise of Thanksgiving

God bless our troops.
It's not really good news to report that Thanksgiving doesn't attract the grinches in number as does Christmas and Halloween. Thus proving that the holiday just doesn't figure large on many people's radar.

It's the pause between witches and elves. It's the source of consternation in boardrooms and accounting offices across the nation as the make-or-break shopping season of the year officially starts.

And Norman Rockwell has been out of favor for several years with the nihilism and cynicism that passes for intellectualism amongst America's elite. There are the celebrities who take a one-day break from a year of self-absorption and hedonism to pose for pictures at a local soup kitchen to help with feeding the homeless. There are the columnists who will write of the Myth of the Happy American Family, relating tales of Thanksgivings filled with battering spouses, quarrelling cousins and single moms who are the victims of The System. Look for these stories to be pervasive since we have a Republican President.

I want to promote and celebrate Thanksgiving. I believe this uniquely American holiday is the secular version of the Sabbath. It is a national day of rest, reflection and family. And, boy, don't we need days like that now!

I am encouraged when I hear of businesses that will be closed for the day. My youngest two daughters work at Soup Plantation (in other parts of the country, it is known as Sweet Tomatoes) and they are closed this Thanksgiving. When I was growing up in Southern California, Carl's Jr. was still owned and run by Carl Karcher and he always closed all his stores for Christmas, July 4th and Thanksgiving. Some businesses are willing to give up tangible one day profits for intangible community good will.

Would it be that more businesses felt that way!

My mom does Thanksgiving. The crowd of family has waxed and waned over the years, but it looks good to have about twenty people this year - my parents, sister, aunt, uncle, my brood and my in-laws up from San Diego. Every leaf will be in the dining room table, a second table next to it and a kid table for the twins. All linen and lace covered with the good crystal and silverware, candles and gourds.

Mom will have placed snacks in the living room and family room but guess where everyone will be hanging out? In the kitchen, kibitzing on the fixings, checking on the turkey and chatting in a whirlwind of conversations as we all try to catch up events with those members we haven't seen in months. We'll be shooed out of the kitchen, probably a half dozen times, but slowly gravitate back, drawn by the warmth and smells.

Being So. Cal either we'll have the windows open and spend part of the time relaxing with an adult beverage or two on the patio outback or it will be cold enough that only the smokers will be huddled on the back patio and the rest of us will be admiring the fire in the fireplace.

Dinner will be about two pm as we sit down (and mom will ask her brother to at least turn down the volume on the football game in the next room until after dinner). Grace will be said with a few added blessings on the people we are missing from Thanksgivings past. At which point, we dab our eyes and focus on the food and each other.

This is the family dinner writ large. Not in front of the television or a quick bite by sons and daughters as they dash out of the house on their own schedule. This is as old as human kind, to gather over the evening meal to talk to one another - to break bread and renew personal connections.

Every family does it a bit differently, but the basic importance of family tradition should not be missed. Tradition provides continuity, even as it changes with the passing of generations. My late grandmother used to do Thanksgiving and my mom did Christmas. When I got married and had children, it shifted to Mom doing Thanksgiving and I do Christmas. Somewhere in the future it will shift to my daughters taking turns with Christmas and I can take over the Thanksgiving tradition.

Actually, I'm looking forward to that!

Oh! Another big tradition for me... I REFUSE to go shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Nope, no way, nada, not going, can't make me. Damn, you can't even get me out of the house beyond my own driveway to go anywhere near the shop-crazed crowds. No, I'm home checking untangling the Christmas lights on the front lawn and figuring out which strings are toast and need to be replaced.

What are your Thanksgiving traditions? What are your suggestions for strengthening and promoting this holiday?

Posted by Darleen at November 19, 2004 12:13 PM


- Pass the mash potatoes and gravy over here....Heh....Happy turkeyday Dar....

Posted by: Hunter at November 19, 2004 07:54 PM