Pre-boomers were taught the first Thanksgivings was a day of gratitude expressed by the early settlers nearly 400 years ago in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The Pilgrims thanked God for delivering them to the new world where they could live free of religious persecution, for surviving the first year, and for the harvest to sustain them in the winter months ahead. We also learned that they shared their food with the local Native Americans.
This national holiday has become a secular celebration of parades, football games, and overeating with the next day marking the official start of the Christmas shopping season, overshadowing its true roots. However, most pre-boomers have seen and remember Norman Rockwell’s series of Thanksgiving paintings which appeared in “The Saturday Evening Post” during the war years of the 1940s. The warm feelings we get when exposed to those magazine covers remains with us to this day.
The Thanksgivings of my childhood remain viable in my mind. As a young child it was the Gimbel’s Parade in downtown Philadelphia. Later the football games took up the morning. Then it was home from college for the long weekend. And later it was the quick train rides from Manhattan to get there in time for the mid-afternoon dinner. Then, many years past before the family got together again. The kids had grown and the first grandchild had arrived before my parents finally moved to the West Coast, after years of prodding. So they were able to enjoy the day each year with all of us and we with them before they passed on a few years back. For this I am most grateful.
I have fond memories of Thanksgivings past and am fortunate to have family close by, so we can enjoy this day together each year. In fact, recently the family took a cruise over the holiday: grandparents, adult children and their spouses as well as the grandkids. It was different and lots of fun, but I missed the “home cooking.”
No matter were you or who you’re with this Thanksgiving, try to recall those magical days gone by when you woke to the alluring aroma of the turkey roasting in the oven. Be quiet and you can almost here your mom and maybe grandma and your aunts talking as they worked for hours to prepare this family feast. And, even though you were shooed out of the kitchen, you managed to catch a glimpse of the vast array of food to be served and knew this day would be good.
Of course, we ate leftovers for days to come: turkey platters, turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey ala king, turkey hash and turkey croquettes. Nobody ate turkey burgers back then or we would have had them too. Even though we grew tired of a week of turkey, everyone looked forward to having another feast at Christmas. Thankfully this meal was at another family member’s home, so we were spared the endless days of leftovers.
This Thanksgiving it’s appropriate to reminisce about those who helped make this holiday a bounty of delicious food for us to enjoy year-after-year, and be thankful for all the other things they did to make our childhood days worth remembering.