By Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall
For a child, Thanksgiving is sort of like Christmas only without any toys. It’s interesting enough: lots of relatives come to dinner, and there’s turkey and “the good china,” but without Santa Claus and toys it’s not that big a thing.
Thanksgiving is also probably not a big thing among the First Nations.
The absence of toys and their distraction makes Thanksgiving a time when a child can more easily focus on the behavior of the adults in his (the pronoun is gender-neutral) life.
For one, there is always an uncle, sometimes a grandfather, who is convinced that everyone at the table is eager to hear about his latest symptoms and diagnoses.
Another helping of irritable bowel syndrome, anyone?
And there comes a Thanksgiving when the child realizes with a shock that some of the adults he has loved all his life don’t really like each other, or that an aunt or uncle who was here last year is “visiting friends” this year, and that topic is not mentioned further.
A painful moment is the remembrance of a beloved MeeMaw or PawPaw who was laughing and joking around the table last year and is now in Heaven with Jesus. And, yes, we spare a moment for happy memories and an awareness of the transitoriness of life.
The matter of the children’s table is awkward. A little kid loves it – it’s a rare occasion when the children sit together as a peer group with somewhat less adult supervision than usual. An occasional crepe-y arm hands across more turkey or rolls, and that’s close enough.
At the age of twelve or so a kid perceives that the children’s table now reflects a lower social status. A girl cousin of the same age gets to sit at the adult table and the boy is stuck with the rug-rats and an admonition to “watch” them.
After the dessert, when the adults are enjoying their coffee and the heart-valve replacement stories arc through the air in one direction while the hip-transplant narratives are flying the other way, the young ‘uns can escape outside (“Don’t forget your coats!”). The little ones fling leaves and little plastic balls around, and the older ones share school stories and, perhaps, confess an attraction to a cute girl or guy in the sophomore class.
Once upon a time a child would never have left the table without asking the appropriate parent or grandparent for permission to do so. The last time this occurred was in Gatineau, Canada in 2005. The occasion was read into Hansard at the next Parliament.
And again, once upon a time a child would never have rejected the turkey, ham, several kinds of dressing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, new potatoes, rolls, biscuits, pecan pie, apple pie, and other wonderful gifts of food prepared by loving hands with a plaintive cry of, “Can we go to town for pizza?”
Nor would an adult have asked about vegan options.
Such would have been dismissed as ungrateful by those who grew up hungry during the Depression and the Second World War.
But that generation is mostly gone now, and with them the core of that post-war world of industry, optimism, thrift, progress, a new openness among peoples, and wonderful hopes for the future.
For them, simply to have survived and now at last to have work and enough food to eat would have been among their many reasons for giving thanks.
We do well to remember that, and to give thanks for them.
May your Thanksgiving be a happy one!