"Freedom From Want," Norman Rockwell, 1943
Happy Thanksgiving, you say? Funny you should mention Thanksgiving. I was just–
What? You didn’t “mention” it, you cursed it? You cursed it and the family-togetherness horse it rode in on? Not to mention the botched history lesson and the excessive quantities of squash?
My, my! Feeling a little tense, aren’t we? Yes, Thanksgiving can do that to you. Even Type Z personalities such as myself can sense the pressure to make the day and entire long weekend perfect in all its Norman Rockwellian glory. And since no enterprise involving actual humans can approach perfection, we are setting ourselves up for a fall.
So let’s aim for equilibrium. Let’s find the joy in this harvest wingding.
Give me a sec.
Oh, sorry. I got distracted, musing about our agrarian past. You know, like, ten years ago. Used to be, suddenly one Friday Santa Claus would show up in all advertising elements everywhere, and you would slap your forehead and say: “Golly! Thanksgiving must… have been… yesterday.” And then you would make yourself a stuffing sandwich and take another nap.
But now the winter holiday materialism blitz and sales event extravaganza starts before Halloween, so Thanksgiving loses that pride of place. No more last barrier to retail frenzy, no more holding the barbarians at the gate. These days the barbarians are mobbing the malls a month before we’ve melted the marshmallows onto the candied yams.
Still, Thanksgiving has its merits. Sure it does.
Music! Thanksgiving is associated with only one tune, and kindergarten teachers do not build entire concerts around “Over the River and Through the Woods” — since even with extravagant use of kazoos and triangles that’s thin gruel for a show. Thus, you are spared this particular parental burden. Five-year-olds are cute beyond belief, and three cheers for the arts! But, enough already. You’ll get your fill next month at the K-3 Winter Choral Diversity Fest in the festively decorated gym. Take a moment to count your blessings that Thanksgiving has not generated a soundtrack.
College football! What more delightful way to teach your young children about the value of higher education? “See, honey? When you grow up to be big and strong, if you drink your milk and study a lot and work hard, then you can go to college and watch your nice new friends pound the living daylights out of each other and score points, which is like math, and math is important.”
Also, politics! Once every four years, Thanksgiving falls just after a presidential election, thus giving you the opportunity to teach your progeny that we make room in our heart and at our table for those outspoken cousins who don’t exactly share our world view and who in fact spew toxic fumes about the very candidate for whom we campaigned and who, if they weren’t family and didn’t have that sweet beach house they sometimes offer us off-season, would really need to be taken out back and sh…. no. That is not what we teach our kids. Not that last part. Forget I said that.
Furthermore, pickles! For those of us who are fans, this is a serious bonus. Relish trays do not reliably make appearances at other holidays, probably because other holidays reliably feature attractions other than food. Presents, for instance. So, fine, no loot on Thanksgiving, but plenty of kosher dill spears. This works for me.
Additionally, extremes! Who doesn’t love setting records? Wednesday is the busiest travel day of the year! Sunday is a feisty contender! But inconvenience be damned, the students must return for Thanksgiving so they can hang with their high school buds and bellyache about what a drag it is to be home. Such fun and adventure and conversational thrills to find your far-flung offspring those impossibly rare and wildly overpriced tickets for planes, trains and buses to get to and from institutions of higher learning for which you’re already paying preposterous amounts of money that you don’t technically have!
In conclusion, gratitude! It never hurts to pause and give thanks for everything. Living, loving, being loved… savoring memories and creating new ones… obsessing over petty details and then getting over your sorry self. It makes you feel warm and winsome, like you’re Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed after everybody in town pitches in to save the day at the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life” when just a little bit earlier in the very same movie a certain somebody was acting very myopic and unappreciative of all life’s ineffable excellence.
I know, I know, wrong holiday. Bedford Falls is not celebrating Thanksgiving.
Hey, imperfection. Get used to it. You’ll feel so much better. You’re welcome.
Oh, and I was just about to say: Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.
The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.