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Monday, November 28, 2011

A Post-Thanksgiving View

   Thanksgiving is over.  Which is a funny thought.  As if we've given our token thanks and can get on with our thankless lives.  I don't mean to sound harsh about that.  I mean, if I meant to be harsh I'd point out that none of us actually spent any time during Thanksgiving being thankful.  I know: thanks for pointing that out, right?  But that's not my point here.  And neither is it my point that we lead pretty thankless lives.  We don't, for the most part.  I just meant it sounded like that's what I meant when I said Thanksgiving is over.  I'll move on.  You can thank me later.
   Thanksgiving is really not much more than a pre-game warm up for the Christmas season.  We get a chance to reconnect with the relatives we've lost touch with over the year, as if to say "okay, so we know where to find each other for the upcoming festivities, cool."  The Thanksgiving meal is sort of a rehearsal dinner.  I mean, really, it is the same food, you know.  Set in the same order, the same dishes, and eaten with the same comments.  Which is cool, I'm not saying that's bad.  I mean, would we want it any other way?  We have that option, but never seem to take it.  Anyone make a big pizza Thanksgiving dinner lately?  Or maybe had a Chinese food theme?  Sure, the tradition of turkey and all the trimmings is a nod to the Pilgrims, so we might stick with that.  But at Christmas, we don't serve up Stromboli, or fajitas either.  And I'm pretty sure, without any Internet researching, that turkey, stuffing, and ambrosia salad is not a traditional meal based on the eating habits of first century Jewry.  (It's a word.  See my post on the Louisiana State Library for more details.)  Added to this pre-game atmosphere is the new rage of shopping the night of Thanksgiving.  I'll get to that in a minute, but just realize that the shopping is ostensibly for Christmas presents.  Taken as a whole weekend experience, I think my pre-game analogy is pretty accurate.
   The traditions of Thanksgiving, from my own experiences, go something like this:
   I always enjoyed the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  I tried to pass that on to my kids, with off and on success.  They weren't always interested, in fact, they weren't always up at that hour.  But if you ask them, they'll insist they love to watch the parade.  And for the most part that's true.  Me, I enjoy watching the floats more than the balloons, the balloon handlers more than the balloons, too.  I have not become a fan of the Broadway performances.  If they could perform them while marching in the parade, I would be a bit more impressed.  Attempting to drum up ticket sales on the side of the parade is a little less noble.  March, dance, sing, and chew gum at the same time, if you please.
   The smell of Thanksgiving is heaven, and it has nothing to do with eating.  When I smell turkey in the oven, the fragrance of mashed potatoes and gravy, the aroma of corn casserole, I slip through time back to the days at my Grandma Manier's house, or to my Aunts' houses, and certainly to my mom's kitchen (wherever that happened to be, depending on the year).  It doesn't just bring back the memory of eating.  That is a part of it, I suppose, but it mostly has to do with preparing it, and the associated fellowship of the women in the kitchen  and the men and kids scattered elsewhere.  I use to love to slip into the kitchen and listen to my mom chat with her sisters and her mother.  They were always very interesting, and usually ended up pretty silly by the end of it.  Add to that the sound of the electric carving knife and the picture is pretty complete.  This moment in my memory seems to last for hours on end at the start of each Thanksgiving.
   Cheering on the hapless Lions is pretty important for this day as well.  I have cousins in Detroit and so I always cheered for their team.  So many of those years we had the honor of being able to see Barry Sanders scamper about, which was always a treat.  I cheered for the Cowboys every year until Jerry Jones fired Tom Landry and America's team became...something entirely different.  Now we jeer the Cowboys with gusto, which has become quite the tradition in and of itself.  This all sounds exciting, but usually the Lions are losing by halftime and we fall asleep, and only wake up in time to see that the Cowboys are winning, which gives us reason to roll over and go back to sleep, or we see the Cowboys are losing, which gives us reason to scoop out a second (or third) piece of pumpkin pie with too much cool whip and cheer their demise.  It is, after all, a loving holiday.
   In the old days, we watched Mary Poppins every Thanksgiving night.  It wasn't available on blue-ray, DVD, VHS, Betamax, or Lasardisc.  But every year it was on TV, and we watched its heart-warming, slightly disturbing theme until it was time to go home.  My kids might have started a new tradition this year, as we all gathered around for the holiday-themed Die Hard, basking in the glow of its hear-warming, slightly disturbing themes.
   The tradition in my own little family is to spend Thanksgiving night trimming our Christmas tree.  We make a big deal of it, hanging the stockings on the staircase, putting together the fake tree, stringing out the lights and figuring which ones still work.  Drinking sparkling apple cider.  If we are lucky, it will be cold enough to wear robes or sweatshirts.  Christmas music plays as we hang the ornaments, the garland, and lay out the skirt.  When they were little, the kids loved to lay under the lit tree, watching the funny shadows cast by the twinkling lights.  It was all pretty magical.  Now, the kids have it down to a science, and the tree looks much more sophisticated, elegant, beautiful.  But I still sort of miss the tackier, goofy trees of yore.
   I'll admit to shopping at midnight this year.  But the funny thing is, I wasn't looking for any real deals out there.  I was about to go to bed, realized I wasn't tired, and asked the kids if they wanted to go shopping for the fun of it.  I really just wanted to see the loony crowds out there.  Yeah, I picked through the cheap DVDs at Wal-Mart, and bought a few random items, but mostly I enjoy the madhouse energy of crazy ladies rushing around trying to grab the big deal before any one else.  I actually have a fond memory of this, a few years back, when Alex and I got up super early and went to buy a big-screen TV.  Braving the crowds, we were able to get the one we wanted, rushed home, and had it hung on the wall and working in time to surprise everyone as they awoke with an early Christmas gift.
   I suppose the simple point here is that I had a great Thanksgiving weekend, and am incredibly thankful for the family I have and the chance to spend time with them.  All of my kids were home this weekend, and that is not always easy to do anymore.  I am sorry that I could not see my family up in PA, but I am thankful that I feel that way, since not everyone is sorry to have missed their family on any holiday.  All in all, God has been far too good to me.  Not that I'm complaining.  And I'll try not to be thankless throughout the rest of the year.
   (This post, as you might have guessed, was just a warm-up for my Christmas post.)

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