This year I can't think of Thanksgiving without thinking of Barry Manilow's melancholy song "Tryin' To Get The Feeling Again."
Google news items about "Thanksgiving," and amidst the tofu turkey recipes and 2017 versus 2018 price comparisons, you'll find a growing number of stories about (a) Christmas decorations popping up before Halloween, (b) Thanksgiving getting lost in the holiday shuffle and (c) traditionalists denouncing the encroachment of "Black Friday" sales onto Thanksgiving Day.
As both a Christian and someone who knows which side his bread is buttered on (retailers DO pay the bills at the newspapers carrying my column, of course), I can see both sides of the holiday desecration issue.
I believe the merchants when they insist that they take pains not to intrude upon the family time or spiritual activities of their employees. I try to ignore the scurrilous rumors that the retailers have asked that the Rapture be abbreviated to allow more time for showcasing housewares and linens.
I sort of pity the "big box" stores that try to obtain a competitive edge by rushing the Christmas selling season. It's just a Band-Aid. Once we eventually reach the cherished goal of promoting Christmas 365 days a year, they'll have nowhere else to expand. They'll finally have to compete by having the best products and service, or settle for being Number 2 (or lower).
Traditionalists, let's not pretend that commercialism is something new. The Pilgrims represented a minority of the passengers aboard the Mayflower; most of the passengers were just out to exploit the New World. Currier & Ives did not produce their prints on a pro bono basis. The "traditional" Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade obviously has ulterior motives. Thanksgiving hosts have never been shy about showing off their material wealth to poorer relations.
I am glad that Abraham Lincoln instituted a national day of thanks, even though the United States somehow got by without one for the first 88 years of its existence. And let's step back for a moment and put some perspective on the things we do on Thanksgiving. After a perfunctory prayer, we eat the bird that Benjamin Franklin championed as the national symbol, we talk behind the backs of the cousins who chose to spend the day with their in-laws instead of blood kin and we watch millionaires playing football.
I can empathize with those who have to work on Thanksgiving. My high school job in a convenience market required me to work every Saturday, Sunday, and holiday. Yes, I ate a lot of leftovers and missed a few hugs from my grandmother, but there were pluses. I came to the rescue of absent-minded shoppers who needed last-minute items, I saved money for my college education and I learned to appreciate the time I do have with family.
As in the days of the Plymouth celebration and the Civil War, Thanksgiving is not about a picture-perfect world. It's about taking life warts and all and still finding enough of the positive to offer heartfelt gratitude to the Creator (or whomever you credit with the good things in your life).
This Thanksgiving roll with the punches, make new traditions, forge new bonds and savor every second you DO get to spend with the ones you love.