Thanksgiving memories 

Our writers reflect on Turkey Days past

Every day, I find myself more grateful for and more appreciative of those who came before me. One of those was George Washington. He issued a proclamation 217 years ago declaring our first National Day of Thanksgiving, concluding "[We] beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions...; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best."

--- Craig Brownlie

When I was a kid, Thanksgiving meant a road trip to Rochester, my parents' hometown. Backing out of our driveway in New Jersey, my father --- not one for attending Mass --- would make the sign of the cross, a clear indication to my brother and me that we were about to die. But we had more immediate concerns, such as the incontinent German Shepard wedged between us. To pass time until the dog hunched up, we made animal sculptures out of Wonder Bread, then sucked on 'em to ward off car sickness. I remember they tasted better than turkey.

--- Linda Kostin

When we think of Thanksgiving, our minds might jump right to the festive and steaming dinner table. I doubt it's just about the food for anybody --- at least it shouldn't be. The food is a nice focal point, but every year I'm struck with just a touch of sadness that we don't do it more often, and without needing a holiday. Thanksgiving. For me, it's about a family reassembling itself under one roof; the realization over a glass of wine that we tend to let our lives and routines get in the way of the bigger, more important picture. And that picture doesn't have to be a Norman Rockwell, it just has to be what it is.

--- Brandon Heffernan

Thanksgiving was always about my mother's cooking. Now, four years after her death, I've tried to write poetry of thanks for the way in which fall's simulacrum of death is a sleep of possibility. This thought opens out into the world.

For the first time since Mom died, I'll have the holiday with my father again. It will be a splinter of our family, minus one brother, my wife, and one of my children. And with the addition of his dear friend, Nancy. In my mother's house, I will try to feel blessed for what the sleeping things tell of and promise.

--- Adam Wilcox

Sometimes relatives hang together through the sheer force of will of one individual. Occasionally that individual has been dead for years.

Is family mere blood, birth and habit? As pastor, I often see functioning families cobbled together from the most unlikely materials: A kind landlord as keeper of tradition; a stray dog as primary caregiver; a senile aunt as historian, priestess, and truth-teller.

Some happy people recognize family as improvised shelter --- a choice they make, rather than some birth-assigned obligation. These joyful paupers live in their abundance, not their want. Humbly giving thanks, they receive profound blessings. Shall we, too?

--- Rev. Corey Keyes

In This Guide...

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