Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving traditions

Probably thousands upon thousands of well meaning folks such as myself attempt to pontificate on blogs about Thanksgiving. So, here I go. I certainly don't want to  miss an opportunity like that. Blogs are a little like a mini presidential podium aren't they? Here I sit, typing one letter after another and no one can do anything about it. The main difference is that all of you can simply go to another site if you don't like this posting. With the President we are stuck with whatever until the next election and even then it may be too late. At least I don't reach my hand into your wallet. What's all that got to do with Thanksgiving? I'd say that, if you have nothing else to be grateful for, you can certainly be grateful that I am not behind a presidential podium. It goes up from there.

Since I was a kid, Thanksgiving has been a series of traditions. With my folks it was church in the morning as early as possible. That was usually 6:00 or 6:30 in a chapel with mostly farmers or other working people like my parents. Then my dad went to work while my mom prepared whatever food was available for our feast. We never had an empty table although the turkey may not have been present once or twice. Rabbit, duck, and squab (pigeon) made their appearances too. I'm grateful for that. Whatever we ate after my dad got home from work was what we had and I learned to accept that what was important was us being there together. It still is!

As a teenager I still enjoyed the early church service, watching the Thanksgiving day parade on TV, the meal itself and the traditional nap afterward. But, what with friends and motor driven vehicles and the introduction of girls being more than a nuisance, the afternoons were spent with almost anyone but my family. Although it was great fun, I learned from those restless years just how much I wanted to be with my family. I'm grateful for that lesson in life. (I certainly could have used the counsel of my folks a bit more back then.)

One year I spent Thanksgiving in Detroit while working. No family, no friends! On Thanksgiving Day I stopped in at the restaurant around the corner owned by a Greek immigrant. "The American Kitchen". It was closed! I didn't know of anywhere else to go. As I walked past the side door the owner saw me through the window, opened the door and asked about my day. After a few words he invited me (a regular customer) in to join his family for Thanksgiving. It would be good to be with a family he said. They celebrated in the restaurant because the home was too small. Although I missed my family I had a wonderful time with them. I did find out that there are some types of dancing I just should not do. I'm grateful for the restaurant owner and his family.

getting married and having children brought even a stronger desire to be with family on Thanksgiving. Now it was a combination of two large families and even a few friends. The challenge became in having proper seating for all of us. I so wanted everyone to be together we hosted Thanksgiving every year. Filling the kitchen, the living room and even a re-arranged bedroom with tables and chairs so everyone had a place to eat. I guess the proper term would be organized chaos with 40 or more people in a two bedroom bungalow. Being a pretty good cook and watching everyone enjoy the food was all I needed. I am grateful for all of those crazy Thanksgivings when it was difficult to hear and I went to bed totally exhausted.

Several of my uncles and an aunt or two served in the military. They were some of my heroes. Any time I saw someone in uniform I remembered how much we owed to their sacrifice. In my early 20's I developed a tradition of visiting some of those veterans who had no family for whatever reason. Starting after church on Thanksgiving morning I would go from place to place and bring some sort of trinket, some cards and a few rolls of pennies. We'd play cards and do some talking and tell a few jokes and I'd be off to the next guy. I carried on the communication throughout the year by either a visit or a phone call but I feel it was the Thanksgiving Day card game that seemed most important. There are only two of those guys left after over 35 years,they are way into their 80's. and living long distances from here. A visit is no longer possible but I will be spending an hour or two on the phone with them before dinner today. I am grateful for those people and the experiences they have shared with me.

As circumstances change for whatever reasons, traditions change too. The definition of exactly what is or is not a tradition is left to the situation of that particular time isn't it? I believe that this year is the beginning of a new tradition for Thanksgiving. I do have my phone calls to make, mass to attend, and a visit to make but other than the traditional feast and nap it's all up in the air yet. This year activities need be spontaneous due to circumstances beyond our control. It won't make any difference as to the enjoyment though. Over the years I've learned to accept whatever presents itself. I am grateful for those people that taught me the importance of that.

Wherever you are, whomever you are with, whatever you do, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving!


Realbob said...

Joe, You are so very true to your traditions ! I'm with you !! Enjoy the day !!! Realbob

Joe Cramer said...

Right back at ya realbob!

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