|Normally I don't have the luxury of time to stop and take a pre-feast photo, but here's one from a smaller gathering in 2002. It's much the same each year.|
Today is Thanksgiving in the USA, a holiday that's unfortunately all too often buried beneath an armload of newspaper advertising supplements for Black Friday, one of the biggest retail shopping days of the year. Tomorrow morning (meaning before dawn) a couple of people will probably be trampled to death in the crush to get a pair of UGGS, those somewhat dorky looking boot slippers or some other frivolity. Sometimes makes me want to pack up and move to New Zealand, truth be known.
Again this year I'll be hosting my family here, roasting a 20+ pound turkey and making a few of the other traditional dishes. My siblings will add to the over-abundance of the overall feast, and by sundown I expect to still be full enough that we'll be asking each other if there's room for pumpkin pie yet, or if we should watch a movie or fire up the X-Box and wait a while still.
Today's post is a near repeat of the post from this same day last year. My thoughts on the holiday and what I think it ought to represent aren't much different today than they were a year ago, other than they've aged and (hopefully) mellowed a bit more.
So... here again is the piece from one of my all-time favorite columnists, Jon Carroll. To my way of thinking it neatly ties the whole bundle up with a bow, and has become part of my annual tradition; a somewhat calm port before the storm of The Holidays officially begins. I hope it means something to you, too.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Thank you for reading my stuff here.
A Song of Thanks; A Grat Etude
by Jon Carroll, copyright held by the San Francisco Chronicle
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It is comfortably free of the strident religious and/or militaristic overtones that give the other holidays their soft emanations of uneasiness.
At Christmas, for instance, we are required to deal with the divinity of Jesus -- I know some of you folks have made up your minds about that one, but not me -- and on the Fourth of July we must wrestle with the question of whether all those simulated aerial bombardments represent the most useful form of nationalism available.
At Thanksgiving, all we have to worry about is whether we can wholeheartedly support (a) roasted turkey, (b) friends and (c) gratitude. My opinions on these matters are unambiguous; I am in favor of them all. I understand that there's another story attached to Thanksgiving, all about a meal that may not have happened at all and certainly didn't happen on the fourth Thursday of November.
The implication of the school-pageant version of Thanksgiving is that everything was just swell between the Pilgrims and the Indians. That's not true, and things got a lot worse before they got marginally better. But Thanksgiving isn't about that -- it's a harvest festival. We can attach some dopey Squanto-give-corn narrative to it, but it's really about how once more the earth has been fruitful and all the crops are safely in the barn. Thus, for me, the thrill of Thanksgiving is undiminished by caveats, codicils or carps. That alone is something to be thankful for.
Thanksgiving provides a formal context in which to consider the instances of kindness that have enlightened our lives, the moments of grace that have gotten us through when all seemed lost. These are fine and sentimental subjects for contemplation.
First, there are the public personalities, artists and entertainers and philosophers, who have been there when they were needed, whether they knew it or not. Let us think kind thoughts about Nancy Pelosi and Helen Mirren, Barbara Lee and Frank Gore, Al Gore and David Milch, David Simon and Mikhail Baryshnikov, Tom Stoppard and Keith Olbermann, Jennifer Egan and Peter Carey, Van Morrison and Clarence Fountain, Don Asmussen and Judith Martin, Duncan Black and Joshua Micah Marshall, Dan Savage and Masi Oka -- this is my partial list; feel free to create your own.
And the teachers, the men and women who took the time to fire a passion for the abstract, to give us each a visceral sense of the continuity of history and the adventure of the future. Our society seems determined to denigrate its teachers -- at its peril, and at ours. This is their day as well.
Even closer. Companions. We all learned about good sex from somebody, and that person deserves a moment. Somebody taught us some hard lesson of life, told us something for our own good, and that willingness to risk conflict for friendship is worth a pause this day. And somebody sat with us through one long night, and listened to our crazy talk and turned it toward sanity; that person has earned this moment too.
And a moment for old friends now estranged, victims of the flux of alliances and changing perceptions. There was something there once, and that something is worth honoring as well.
Our parents, of course, and our children; our grandparents and our grandchildren. We are caught in the dance of life with them and, however tedious that dance can sometimes seem, it is the music of our lives. To deny it is to deny our heritage and our legacy.
And thanks, too, for all the past Thanksgivings, and for all the people we shared them with. Thanks for the time the turkey fell on the floor during the carving process; for the time Uncle Benny was persuaded to sing "Peg o' My Heart"; for the time two strangers fell in love, and two lovers fell asleep, in front of the fire, even before the pumpkin pie.
And the final bead on the string is for this very Thanksgiving, this particular Thursday, and the people with whom we will be sharing it. Whoever they are and whatever the circumstances that have brought us together, we will today be celebrating with them the gift of life and the persistence of charity in a world that seems bent on ending one and denying the other.
Thanks. A lot.