COLUMN: Personal evolution of Thanksgiving
Holiday traditions and family customs evolve. Lives, locations and priorities change. People come and go. Each and every year good things, bad things happen to us all. Look hard and enough and we should all find something to be thankful for, not only in this holiday season, but all year long.
I woke up Thanksgiving Day morning to an elbow square across my nose. A few hours earlier it was a knee to the groin.
I'm thankful our children love my wife and I so much to crawl into bed with us early, early Thanksgiving morning and not let us sleep the day away.
"Mooooooooo-ve over daddy."
"Quit snoring in my ear daddy."
"Mommy, quit taking all the blankets."
"Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! My bear blankey fell on the floor."
I don't know which child was saying what but I do know the bed shrinks considerably once they crawl in and stake claim to their sleeping grounds.
Yes, I am very thankful.
I've been through many different Thanksgivings over the years and don't normally put too much thought into the holiday, other than a quick annual overview for what I'm thankful.
As I lay there in bed this past Thanksgiving morning, contemplating whether I needed to put some ice on my nose or not, I found myself reminiscing about this favorite holiday.
I remember my younger years, sleeping until the crack of 11 a.m. and waking up to the smell of turkey and dressing cooking upstairs. It was at this point on the Thanksgiving timeline pushing my mother to the brink of holiday insanity: "Is the turkey ready yet? When are we going to eat? How much longer until it's ready? What time are we going to eat?"
"We're going to eat when it's done! Get outside and run around for a couple hours! You'll be the first to know when it's time to eat!"
Ahhhh... memories. Year after year, though, mom staved off a trip to the looney bin and always came through with a great turkey dinner.
I fondly remember football on television, eating sunflower seeds as we watched, followed by a carefree neighborhood game in the churchyard. We didn't carry cell phones and didn't use the house phone much either back then. Once the turkey was demolished and we fullfilled our committment to answering the relatives' questions, it was the churchyard. We showed up, chose teams and played well past dark. No video games, simply outdoor smashmouth football.
The college years and beyond provided some interesting Thanksgivings. Due to school, jobs, geography, etc., I spent a number of those years celebrating Thanksgiving on my own. No worries though. Depending where I was living at the time, I could generally find a generous relative. Alone on many a Thanksgiving, I developed a little tradition of cooking my famous 4-meat Thanksgiving chili and watching the 24-hour Clint Eastwood marathon from the comfort of a hand-me-down sofa straight out of the 1970's.
Alone, yes. But that wasn't all bad back then.
This year, it really hit me, both literally and figuratively. Now, I have my own family to cook for, our own traditions to cultivate, and it feels pretty good.
As I snuck in a few minutes of football here and there throughout the day, it really warmed my heart to watch out of one eye my wife and children in the kitchen cooking together. They handled the inside chores of preparing stuffing, potatoes, pumpkin pie and real whipped cream. I handled the turkey on the grill. Like a man! Over hot coals and flames.
As an aside... what I am not thankful for is fat-free vanilla ice cream. Really? Is that what our society has come to? Have the makers of this debacle of Americana tried to eat fat-free vanilla ice cream on pie? Never again, wife.
Looking back, the memories are fond. Now, with three little girls under the age of 5, there's less football to watch and more SpongeBob SquarePants. That's okay, even though my days of vegetating through 24 hours of Clint are over, I'm fascinated by a talking sponge who wears a shirt, tie and pants, lives in a pineapple and flips burgers at the Krusty Krab.