Words like Black Friday and elves on shelves are penetrating my shielded world. I am not too happy about that. I am in November, a wonderful month of harvest and pilgrims and Thanksgiving and I would like to “be” here amongst the speckled leaves of fall and the childhood memories of ditto sheets of cornucopias and pilgrim’s hats and autumn plays staring John Smith and Pocahontas and centerpiece turkeys made with little hands and pinecones. I do not want to miss all of that. But sadly, my thoughts of harvest and the consequent feast are being over ridden by noticeable reminders of what all of this has become. It seems each year is more voracious than the one before. The stores are not waiting for Black Friday anymore, they have taken Thanksgiving too. And I hear people around me complain, everyone seems to complain and feel badly about the demise of poor Thanksgiving, so ignored and unattended but the reality is that most everyone is shopping before the turkey is cold, I mean, out of the oven. Hmmm. I must be misconstruing the message.
I do try to understand the glory of the hunt – the celebratory manner of ringing in the holiday season by mass shopping, I certainly do understand the value of a good deal but what bothers me is it seems to cause disregard for this all American tradition of Thanksgiving. A holiday that was my mother’s favorite. Even in my childhood, there was indication of materialism and consumerism lurking and she realized the beauty of Thanksgiving’s simplicity and purity. She loved that there were no presents, no pressure, just lots of special dishes and overstuffed aunts and uncles and pies for dessert. I can remember my grandmother’s pumpkin pie and the grownups enjoying a slice with a fresh cup of coffee and football blaring in the background as someone fell asleep in the recliner. I still want that, I want the moment. As I have said before, I read Facebook and there seems to be a refrain that runs through this cyber world about living in the moment, the here and now, but I see most of that as just words – it’s not what “is”. What “is”, is a wasted occasion to enjoy family and friends; it is one holiday being compromised for another. I think of all of the retail workers who, unlike the shoppers, have no choice as to whether they will leave the Thanksgiving table prematurely, they must go to work to service the hordes of shoppers, who are going out to huge stores and to buy things that the next year, they won’t even remember.
But I remember the Thanksgivings of my life. I remember the special tablecloth and the 20 pound Tom Turkeys and my grandmother’s cornbread dressing and my mom in an apron and the story of the Indians and the pilgrims and I remember life then, after the last dish was put away and the turkey was now sliced for sandwiches and the relatives were safely home, the Christmas season began.
I close with a quote from Chef Michael Symon, “My restaurants are never opened on Thanksgiving; I want my staff to spend time with their family if they can. My feeling is, if I can’t figure out how to make money the rest of the year so that my workers can enjoy the holidays, then I don’t deserve to be an owner.”