When we think of Thanksgiving we can smell the aroma of a turkey baking and pumpkin pie cooling, whipped cream and whipped potatoes, cranberry sauce and gravy. It’s a tradition so ingrained in memory our thoughts automatically rush to full bellies and football, family and friends.
Not so long ago, during the Great Depression, most of the country could only dream of a table laden with a fat turkey and all the fixings. And if you lived in the dust bowl in the 1930’s you forgot how to dream of a table filled with food or even a table with any food. But the American people are strong, resilient, and hopeful.
Envision living at the worst of times in a part of the country where daily survival meant fighting the wind storms and praying the small garden you planted would yield a potato or two and the chickens would survive for a few more weeks. Thanksgiving still meant a holiday and sharing. It provided a reason to get together and be thankful.
I imagine during those times what a Thanksgiving would be like for those in small towns made up of farmers and ranchers, where neighbors knew each other for generations. The town matriarch would have everyone gather at the church, bringing whatever food they might have that could be shared with others. Where a long table made of planks of lumber resting on saw horses was covered with family linen tablecloths unpacked from cedar chests lovingly laid on top. Mismatched china and eating utensils would be divided so each person had at least a fork, and maybe shared a knife. Mason jars filled with tea if they were lucky, or, for the men, moonshine if they were really lucky.
A few skinny chickens would be roasted on a spit in the church yard by the men gathered there to swap stories, while the ladies sat around a table peeling not quite ripe potatoes and whatever vegetable managed to survive the heat, drought and wind. If they were lucky someone might have baked a loaf or two of bread. Nothing fancy and nothing over-flowing, but just enough to celebrate the holiday and join with family and friends for a day of thanks.
I don’t imagine they recited the blessing as most of us do today, some solemn and some silly. Instead, I think they would give thanks to have each other, for the freedom to live in this country, and to still have their homes and land.
Thanksgiving is more than food and celebration. It is a time when we each think of what we are thankful for in our lives, be it family or friends, or even having a job so we can provide for those we care about. It’s a time when we turn off our phones and pay attention to those around us. Where we sit back and enjoy just being with others; watching babies crawl and youngsters chase each other, catching up with stories and listening to the wisdom of our elders.
I hope everyone has a Thanksgiving where they are with people they care about be it family or friends – or even a stranger you’ve opened your home to. It doesn’t matter if you have a twenty five pound turkey or a burger. The food isn’t what Thanksgiving is all about. Caring about life and those you share it with – that’s what Thanksgiving is about. Have a happy day!
By S.L. Dwyer
B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree