Today, too many Americans consider Thanksgiving as a mere speed bump on the way to Christmas, a chance to fuel up for Black Friday, when they'll need their energy to cage-fight each other for an Instant Pot shaped like R2-D2 or a television the size of Guam.
In an effort to adjust our perspective, let's pause for a moment to reflect on the history of this special holiday, intended as a celebration of America's many blessings (including expandable waistbands).
In 1621, the Pilgrim fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and creepy uncles gathered with native americans for The First Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, this harmonious occasion ended in a heated argument over immigration policy and whether the cranberry sauce with or without berries is the real stuff. A couple of centuries later, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as an official holiday in a valiant attempt to control the national overpopulation of giblets. Moving ahead to the twentieth-century, a staple of the modern Thanksgiving dinner emerged with the invention of green bean casserole, ensuring that American children would be even less likely to eat their vegetables.
Now that I've provided a comprehensive historical survey, I'll offer an overview of a modern Thanksgiving in a family that truly appreciates the deeper meaning of the holiday. The celebration in my own household begins each year in typical fashion, with everyone dragging out of bed just in time to catch the conclusion of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade of Lip-syncing One-Hit Wonders. We then watch the National Dog Show, often trying, and failing, to identify a contestant like our own little dog, Bailey. (Apparently, they don't include breeds from the worthless group. )
During the dog show, I usually prepare a pumpkin pie — otherwise known as an excuse to eat an entire tub of Cool Whip. This is one of the few menu items I'm entrusted to contribute to my parents' Thanksgiving feast, probably because the only culinary skill it requires is the adept use of a can opener.
I suppose someday my wife and I will need to learn the dark magic of cooking turkey and dressing, but as long as our parents are willing, we'll gladly stick to the Thanksgiving equivalent of heating up Pop Tarts.
When the pie is done (we think), we begin our annual mad dash to get to my parents' house before Thanksgiving officially expires. Unfortunately, arriving anywhere on time with my wife and three daughters ranks right up there with trying use Saran Wrap without cursing.
Once we finally arrive, we force our daughters to participate in a traditional family photo session in front of the old magnolia tree before they have a chance to soil their outfits with ketchup, yes, ketchup. The whining and complaining that ensues when we mention taking pictures probably makes the neighbors suspect us of committing some kind of severe abuse, like forcing our children to pose for photos.
After the photo-torture, we proceed to the main event. The Thanksgiving meal always begins with a prayer, which usually (and ironically) is my responsibility. I thank the Lord for the blessings He has imparted to us, followed by requesting a quick recovery from the gravy overdose we are about to receive.
My parents spend hours cooking, so we always feel obliged to test the capacity of our internal organs. And still, when I finally pry myself away from the dining table to hook up a Pepto-Bismol IV, my dad always asks accusingly, "Is that all you're gonna eat?"I usually answer by grabbing the pie server (and handing it to my mother since I've been told I'm geometrically challenged).
I truly have a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. My family is healthy, we have more than we need, and we get to sleep until noon for three days straight. I look forward to the day when I can host Thanksgiving for my children and grandchildren, and we can sit down together for a hearty meal of pumpkin pie and Pop Tarts.
So this Thanksgiving, put down those Black Friday ads for a minute, focus on the things in your life that really matter, and ask a loved one to pass the Cool Whip.