Stuck right before Christmas and right after Halloween is Thanksgiving. Halloween screams at you: Buy candy! Buy candy! Buy MORE candy! Buy stuff to put the candy in! Poor Christmas twinkles and glitters you to death by urging you to have a Coke and a smile and buy Granny a box of chocolate covered cherries. The retailers hardly notice Thanksgiving because they are too busy taking down the pumpkins, ghosts, and candy corn and putting up the reindeer, Christmas trees, and fake snow. Perhaps this is a good thing; we should not be told how to celebrate this holiday by the media, but celebrate it as tradition and need dictate to us.
Of course, there are few retailers that try advertising Thanksgiving with the cliché smiling families gathered around a large golden bird. When I think to my past Thanksgiving holidays, there are plenty of golden birds, but we never stood around and gawked at it, we were too busy whining about how hungry we were and why didn't Daddy get off the phone and carve the dadgum bird? Also, you might see Pilgrims and Indians adorning the windows of some stores. And I don't know about you, but there aren't too many Indians and Pilgrims around my house during this holiday. If there were, I'd probably call the police and hope to be on the season opener of COPS.
I consider myself blessed with wonderful memories of Thanksgiving. During many of the Thanksgiving holidays of my youth, I remember going to the shed to get some potatoes and onions that just a few months earlier were growing in the warm soil of our large garden. My sisters and I would wash the vegetables as the blare of a football game crept from the living room with the occasional sounds of Daddy snapping pole beans. Both laughter and protests came from the kitchen as the potatoes lost their skins and the dressing got tasted for the umpteenth time. Momma was sure the dressing was "just right" so she smacked our hands, and chased us out of the house.
Being forced from the house wasn't too upsetting for me because there were piles and piles of crisp oak leaves that dotted our large yard. I would roll and jump in them until I was covered in sweat and my face hurt from giggling so much. In November, the sky was always the color of a dirty nickel against the naked trees. The cool air had the subtle smell of bonfires and I could hear the buzz of chain saws rattling in the distance.
Our garden was in the last stages of death with grass reaching up to three feet high. The grass surrounded everything except the turnips that were ready for picking. If Thanksgiving supper was a while off, I would pull up a fat turnip, wash it off, and eat it like an apple. On the long grass stalks, there would be an occasional dead or almost-dead locust available for me to pluck and play with. The yellowed grass made a great pretend burrow for me to play in while I waited on Momma to yell for supper.
When Momma did finally yell, it was for me to get the cats out of the house. I would enter the house and the warm thick smells of dressing, potatoes, turkey, green beans, and fresh rolls cooking would practically knock me back outside the door -- no wonder the cats ran inside! On my way out with a cat under each arm, I encountered relatives that were dropping by to share firewood and anecdotes about other relatives. I always wondered if the relatives were really sharing firewood or if they were brought in (like the cats were) by the smell of Momma's cooking.
When we all (both invited and uninvited family members) did finally gather around the table, we had a healthy appetite and full hearts. We would take turns telling what we were thankful for while giggling at what the other family members were thankful for. We kids were always thankful for stuff like chocolate, and having an older friend who just got her driver's license, and that Daddy didn't pray as long for normal meals as he did for the Thanksgiving meal. Later in life, it dawned on me why my parents always said that they were thankful for family. Chocolate and cars are nice to have, but your family stays with you for life.
After doling out the plates and surviving our arms going to sleep from holding hands through Daddy's lengthy blessing, our Meme would always joke that she only wanted some slaw and dressing. It's been a couple of decades since Meme left us, but to this day, one of us will mention at the end of the blessing, "Boy, I could make a meal outta this here drassin' n' slaw!"
I'm glad that the Thanksgiving holiday isn't as widely advertised as Christmas and Halloween. Each person should be able to define their own giving of thanks. I can't imagine how else I could experience Thanksgiving except by the celebration of family and food. The turkey and all the trimmings mixed with relatives, sprinkled with laughter and a few arguments, and the leaf piles are Thanksgiving to me. Now how would you advertise that? You couldn't, and this is great because the next thing you know, the entire country would be collecting dead locusts, eating raw turnips, making mashed potatoes from scratch, and just old plain being thankful at this time of year.
About the Author Angela Gillaspie resides in Alabama and is a work-at-home programmer/analyst, freelance writer, wife to one, and mommy to three. And she's looking forward to playing with dead locusts and leaf piles with her kids this Thanksgiving at her parent's home in Georgia. Visit the author's site, Southern Angel.