Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday -- equally accessible to persons of any faith, color or creed. (I think PETA members can even get soy patties in the shape of turkey legs, although I may have made that up.)
Yes, I know, Canadians have a Thanksgiving Day too, in October, before Winter really closes in. But do the Detroit Lions play on your Thanksgiving? Hmmmm? How about the Dallas Cowboys?
Our Thanksgiving -- American Thanksgiving (hereinafter referred to solely as "Thanksgiving" unless the context requires otherwise -- I just love throwing stuff like that in out of place) is uniquely American. We celebrate the Pilgrims and the virtues of religious freedom and tolerance that we are taught they brought to these shores... and which would have been anathema to them. Ah well. No myth holds up to close inspection.
Thanksgiving's only flaw is the lack of a serious retail component. It used to be considered the starting date of the Christmas shopping season. Of course, that was back in the days when Labor Day was considered the starting date of the campaign season.
Do you wonder why some people -- me included -- wax nostalgic about the good old days?
And families have special and wonderful Thansgiving traditions. In our house, for example, on Thanksgiving I eat too much and watch football on TV... OK, I do that most Sundays during the Fall, too, but, you know, I eat turkey on Thanksgiving.
When I was growing up, we had to worry about when the Thanksgiving meal should be served. There were really only three viable options:
- At halftime of the Detroit game;
- Between the end of the Detroit game and the start of the Dallas game; or
- At halftime of the Dallas game.
Thanksgiving was always at our house after we moved out of the City. Yes, there was a period of nearly 12 years when I was technically a resident of a far northwest Chicago suburb. It hadn't been fully absorbed into the suburban sprawl when we moved there, in the late '60's. It had a thriving business district, a volunteer fire department, and folks went to the see the football games and plays at the high school because that's what people in town did. Whether they had kids in the school or not.
It was, in short, Norman Rockwell's America brought to life.
More or less... there was a motel on Northwest Highway that used to advertise, "Have your next affair on us." That might sound more like Peyton Place than Mayfield (home of the Cleavers of Leave It To Beaver)... but maybe the proprietors didn't see the possible second meaning.
Whether it was a truly innocent incarnation of Americana is a question I'll leave for another day; for now, it is enough for you to know that it was located not far from where Christ lost His shoes.
The guest list varied from year to year. People died from time to time. But my mother's two sisters and their families were always in attendance. One sister followed us up from the South Side and moved to this distant outpost; she was always the first to arrive on Thanksgiving, with her husband and two daughters and a whole bunch of pies she'd baked herself.
The other sister lived in a western suburb and always got lost looking for our house. Every single year. She brought her husband and her thousands and thousands of kids. OK, there were seven, but that seemed a large number to me at the time. And she didn't bring pies. And although she got lost every single year, her oldest son became a Naval Flight Officer. That's the guy who sits behind the pilot on a carrier-based jet and tells the pilot where to go and drop the bombs or shoot the missles. A navigator! Life works out funny, doesn't it?
In the modern world, Thanksgiving arrangements seem so much more complicated. People still die. And people divorce. My sister, Aunt Betty, was planning on bringing our brother, Uncle Bob, to our house this year... but he conned our surviving aunt into letting him deep fry a turkey at her house. So Aunt Betty called and asked if she could bring her kids instead. Just for awhile... her ex-husband would be picking them up to take to his parents' house. And Oldest Son is bringing eight friends Wednesday to stay overnight... but they're leaving Thursday morning... early... I hope... for California, where they have tickets to the Notre Dame - USC game. Older Daughter told us she'll be home Wednesday, too, also with a friend -- a person who had to drive to O'Hare anyway because she's flying out Thursday as well. I don't know if she's staying for dinner. I don't know who she is or where she's going. Indeed, I've never heard her name before this week... and, if I did actually hear it, I've already forgotten it.
I was talking on line to Middle Son about his plans. He's hoping to get picked up Tuesday because he has no classes on Wednesday. "Just you?" I typed back. "Is something wrong?"
Long Suffering Spouse is considering two turkey dinners -- one on Wednesday night for the Domers. I told her she'd better talk to Oldest Son first: The group may be planning to go out nightclubbing instead. Of course, being college students, they may want to do both....
And Thanksgiving night, the NFL Network is going to provide a third football game. I'm worried about how this may even further complicate dinner arrangements....