This holiday has always been kind of a confusing one for me. I’m not sure what it actually means. I know what the stock answer is, “Thankful for family and friends.” It is learned at an early age that we should use this time of year to give thanks for the many blessings we receive in our American lives. To eat, drink, be merry and watch football; our way. I get it. So before you get all pissy and republican on me, read on and try to understand my view. I know this is hard.
The actual day of Thanksgiving is the day the Europeans began brokering a deal to eventually drive the natives into reservations and without better terms steal from them. Are the natives “thankful” for us? Were the Jews thankful for the Holocaust? I know it’s a harsh analogy but it seems to fairly accurate to me. Jewish people and Native Americans are free today to live as Americans, I’m “Thankful” for that. I ask my friends, “is your Thanksgiving Custer Battlefield Day?” “Is your Thanksgiving Adolf Hitler puts a bullet in his head day?” Mine would be. Maybe this holiday was originally intended for us to eat and drink until the turkey coma sets in and we forget about the atrocities of our forefathers.
Family traditions: women in the kitchen at 4 am, a parade on t.v., a light breakfast, Football (both being played by kids, middle age men and the NFL), assorted appetizers (deviled eggs are all that matter), drinks of your choice (have you busted out the egg nog yet?), gorging ourselves on numerous plates of turkey and various fix-ens( all topped with gravy of course), maybe a game or two with different parts of family and then the nap (glorious nap). This is our basic American Thanksgiving with subtle nuances from home to home.
I never had one of these growing up, maybe when I was very young but I truly don’t remember. My favorite Thanksgivings were spent at my sister’s house, very traditional food. I loved playing outside with the kids but my highlight was when Uncle Jerry showed up. The booze would flow and there would be a memorable quote by the end of the day. My favorite ever was when he was offered pie, “Nah, it might ruin the taste of my beer…” Classic. That was over twenty years ago.
Most holidays for me were spent somewhere else, with various family, most of the time with my grandparents. I didn’t think I would ever understand why my mother would choose to work over be with me. I will admit it took quite some time for me to understand basic responsibility and I continue to learn. My mother has only missed a couple of Thanksgivings in thirty years, cooking dinner for her bar. I can see where this is confusing for some people, as I heard tons of criticism from small town and minded folks in my younger years. “Why is a bar open on Thanksgiving?” Well, hear goes, let me see if I can drill this into your brain. There are thousands of people in this world that either don’t have family or have been banned from there households because of numerous personal problems. My Mom takes it upon herself to feed them and make sure for at least one time a year, they feel holiday cheer. She’s never asked for anything, doesn’t even look for thank you’s. She does this once during Christmas too, a true saint. Now, there are some of you that scoff, “these people should take care of themselves.” I can hear it, as I was exposed to it for years while working at a private country club. Well, my conservative friends, what would you say if I told you a majority of these people that indulge in my Mother’s holiday spirit are Veteran’s of Foreign Wars, mostly Vietnam. Men our country has forgotten. Men because of traumatic experience have turned to alcohol and drugs to help them forget. Medicated by our government and additionally medicating themselves, they get tucked away in the cracks of society to rot away and eventually never be heard from again. Forgotten by their families but not forgotten by my Mother. No, as a child I did not understand, but as an adult I am thankful we didn’t have traditional family Thanksgiving.
Today, I’m thankful for so many moments and people that have blessed my life. I love my wife and will gladly enjoy her pumpkin pie. I’m not asking you to quit your traditions but maybe take a moment today, make an extra phone call or lend a smile and a kind word. Happy Thanksgiving!