By Richard Watkins
For me, Thanksgiving as a kid meant a few different things. It meant, most importantly, playing street football with my cousins. Secondly, it meant sitting at a separate table from the adults for dinner, usually off in a side room, and feeling as though we had the run of the place. Like a mob family taking over a restaurant for the night and not letting anyone who wasn’t associated with them in for that evening.
It meant mashed potato swimming pools with green bean “swimmers”. It meant olive tipped fingers that made us all look like E.T. It meant pouring Coke on top of a half full glass of 7-Up with the hopes that the two liquids would remain separated leaving the bottom half clear and top half dark (a phenomenon I was only able to achieve once during my 50 years of Thanksgivings).
It meant men watching football and the ladies doing the cooking, setting, clearing, cleaning, baking, setting, clearing and cleaning. And when all that was finished, the ladies would sit around the table to talk while the men filtered through the kitchen for their traditional post-Thanksgiving Dinner turkey sandwiches and picking through the left-overs.
But for all the things it meant, giving thanks never came into the equation.
As I got older and Thanksgivings started shrinking in terms of number of extended family members in attendance and more non-family members began to creep into the fold, a more reflective person than I would occasionally try to get everyone around the table to list off a thing or two for which they were thankful. The list would be pretty much as you would expect: Friends. Family. A spouse here. A spouse there. Children. No children. The basic drill. And, when it would come to me, I would always make some joke like “I’m thankful I’m the last one to say what I’m thankful for and now we can eat,” and I would proceed with making my mashed potato swimming pools with green bean “swimmers”, sticking olives on the tips of my fingers to look like E.T. and pouring Coke on top of a half full glass of 7-Up with the hopes that the two liquids would remain separated leaving the bottom half clear and top half dark.
Reflecting on those times now got me thinking: Where did those thanks that were given go? Was it enough to just share the thanks verbally, and by doing so, one’s expression of thanks was taken in and justified by the cosmos? Was it like sending a letter to Santa Claus? Even though he wasn’t real, the mere fact that the letter was written in the first place was enough of a nod to a greater universal force of good cheer that the sentiments would be accepted by something and validated?
While the history of Thanksgiving differs from source to source, as do the first celebratory traditions, no one can deny that in its current incarnation, Thanksgiving is celebrated with petty squabbling, political discord, sibling rivalry, split family one-up-man-ship, please don’t get Uncle Burt started on those darn hippies this year, tofu turkey, and once midnight, now 4 pm black Friday line fist fights to which half of us will claim there’s nothing to be thankful for and the other half will say “thanks for nothing!”
That is why this year, I am officially denouncing Thanksgiving altogether. If we’re not going celebrate it for why it was created, we should abandon it all together. In its place, I call for a new holiday. Instead of Thanksgiving, I say we celebrate “Thanks-be-to-God-ing”.
To me, it is not enough to just say thanks out loud if it is not directed to something or someone. And to me, the source of my thanks is God. This year, and going forward, everything good I have and everything bad that I don’t have; everything good that has happened to me and everything bad that has not happened to me; everything for which I am grateful and everything for which I am not grateful but should be gets offered up to God with true sentiments of thankfulness for the blessings bestowed upon me. And once my thanks are offered up to God, I will then proceed with teaching my kids how to make mashed potato swimming pools with green bean “swimmers”, sticking olives on the tips of my fingers to look like E.T. and pouring coke on top of a half full glass of 7-Up. After all, some traditions should remain intact, right?
And with that, let me be the first to offer you peace, joy and a very happy Thanks-be-to-God-ing!